Recent CodeSOD

Code Snippet Of the Day (CodeSOD) features interesting and usually incorrect code snippets taken from actual production code in a commercial and/or open source software projects.

Jan 2022

A Pointer to your References

by in CodeSOD on

John C works at a defense contractor, and his peers are well versed in C. Unfortunately, many years ago, a lot of their software started being developed in Java. While references are often described as "pointers, but safer," they are not pointers, so your intuitions about how memory gets allocated and released are likely to be wrong.

Which is definitely the case for John's peers. For example, in C, you generally want really clear understandings of who owns a given block of memory. You don't want to allocate memory and hand it off to another module without being really clear about who is responsible for cleaning it up later. This means that you'll often write methods that expect buffers and other blocks of memory passed into them, so that they don't have to worry about memory ownership.


The Correct Browser

by in CodeSOD on

Sometimes, it's not the code that's bad, but what the code costs. For Elizabeth's company, that cost was significant in terms of dollars and cents. They needed to staff up to accomplish some major Java Enterprise work, so they went with the highest of the highly paid consultants they could find. These consultants came from a big name firm, and were billed at an eye-watering hourly rate.

Elizabeth warns us that the Java code is a behemoth of WTFs that is "too difficult to describe", but one particular WTF leapt out at her. Specifically, included in the application was a file called nonIEUser.html. This project was happening circa 2012, which is after Microsoft finally admitted standards might need to be a thing, and definitely well outside of the time when your web application should only work in Internet Explorer. For a greenfield project, there was no reason to do anything IE only, and fortunately, they didn't- aside from forcing a check to yell at you if you didn't use IE.


Well Trained

by in CodeSOD on

Mandatory compliance training is a thing. The reasons behind it range from companies trying to reduce civil liabilities to actual legal mandates which require the training. The quality of mandatory training ranges from "useless" to "actively awful", and it's mostly PowerPoint-style slides interspersed with quizzes to make sure you were "paying attention". The worse ones will usually have timers on the slides so you can't just click past, and have to actually idle to "force" you to read it.

Also, since legal compliance tends to move slower than technology, training built years ago is frequently still relevant. So, for example, Duncan's company built training back when you could reasonably expect Flash to run in the browser. Building the training and the content cost money, so once Flash got deprecated, they weren't just going to throw that money away- they found a contractor who'd convert it to "HTML5".


Do Nothing

by in CodeSOD on

Ivan encountered a strange bug. His organization uses the R language, which has a handy-dandy documentation language attached to it, for Rd files. The language itself is an organically grown hodge-podge of R and LaTeX, built to make it easy to format both plain text and R code within the documentation. It lets you use LaTeX-like commands, but also mix in R code to control the output.

Ivan's problem was that one of his macros, which we'll call \mymacro, only worked sometimes. The specific cases where it failed were where the macro expanded into multi-line output, which once upon a time wasn't a thing that Rd supported, but is supported, and clearly wasn't the problem. Ivan poked at it from that direction, suspecting there was maybe a regression, and then spent a lot of time trying to understand the places where the macro did and didn't work.


Cloudy Optimizations

by in CodeSOD on

Search engine optimization is both a dark art and a corrupt industry. Search providers work hard to keep their algorithms opaque. SEO is a mix of guessing and snake oil and sometimes outright lying.

For example, Mark M recently inherited a rather… bad PHP website. One of its notable SEO tweaks was that it had a tag cloud that slapped a bunch of keywords together to give a sense of what kinds of articles had been posted recently. At least, that was the idea. But when Mark dug into the code, there was no sign that there was any source of tags in the database. In fact, articles didn't get tagged at all. So where was the tag cloud coming from?