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The Daily WTF

Curious Perversions in Information Technology

Last Build Date: Mon, 05 Dec 2016 12:57:31 GMT


The Infrastructure

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 11:30:00 GMT

George had just escaped from his job, a WTF-laden hellhole where asking for a test database to reproduce an issue resulted in the boss spending hours and hours hand-typing and debugging a fresh SQL script based on an old half-remembered schema. Initech promised to be a fantastic improvement. “We do things right around here,” his new boss, Harvey, told him after hiring him. “We do clean coding. Our development systems and libraries are fabulous! And each of our programmers get a private office with its own window!” Yay, no more cubicle! George climbed over the required HR training videos, slideshows, and a Himalayan mountain’s worth of paperwork, then headed to his new desk where a budget small-form factor PC with a single 17“ LCD monitor waited for him. ”Yeah, that’s real fabulous," he thought to himself. But perhaps it was just a placeholder system, quickly dug up from elsewhere in the building, to get him started while they ordered a proper developer-grade PC. It booted up and George realized he didn’t know his account credentials, so he wandered on down to the IT office to get set up. The IT Office, from the outside, appeared to be a large corner office, but inside it was cold and dark and of uncertain size, with the windows covered by blackout curtains and hidden oscillating fans blasting a chilly breeze through the office. All the room’s light coming from a single small table lamp situated at the sole occupant’s desk. Piles of unsorted equipment and cabling were scattered across the floor, barely visible in the poor lighting, a veritable obstacle course for any visitors with poor eyesight or agility. In contrast to the rest of the room, the desk itself was absolutely spotless, neatly holding the lamp, a keyboard and mouse, and one nice 40" display–nothing else. Not even a telephone. An empty office chair sat in front. As he entered the blackness, George could hear a rapid-fire chorus of clicking sounds–the kind that usually meant your hard drive had kicked the bucket–clustered around one floor-based pile of machinery which was only visible due to the incessant flashing of LEDs it possessed–LEDs which blinked in perfect time to the various patterns of clicks emanating from the area. George coughed to make his presence known, and the IT guy appeared near the desk with such silence that George wondered if he had materialized like a ghost. Due to the placement of their sole source of light, George could not even make out his features. “Hi, I’m George,” he introduced himself, extending a hand the man did not accept. “I just started here and I need an account.” The IT worker grunted slightly. He proceeded straight to one formless pile of equipment and sat down cross-legged next to it, right on the floor, moving so silently that George almost wondered if he had only imagined it. He made some barely-discernible motions in the dark, and a moment later a previously-hidden LCD monitor flickered to life, bringing new light into the room which allowed George to perceive that the monitor was precariously situated upon a pile of about five budget PC towers from at least a decade ago, heaped up like a deranged game of Jenga, the entire fixture surrounded by dark, snakelike cables of various types whiched meandered to and fro throughout the room. The screen came to, and George watched in fascination as it presented a Windows Server 2000 login screen. He then realized in repugnance that this pile of equipment was the very same one radiating the sickly click of dying hard disks. Surely this was not the company’s domain controller! The IT guy entered his login information, and upon his hitting “Enter”, the violent ticking of hard disks became frantic. The screen froze for a long moment–at the time it seemed like minutes–before switching to the classic desktop environment of an operating system serving well beyond its prime. The shadowy IT guy fished a mouse from somewh[...]

Error'd: Lenovo Uh-Oh (and more!)

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 11:00:00 GMT

"I get it that some apps need special permissions, but a GUID is the digital equivalent of 'just trust me - I know what I'm doing'," Kenneth M. writes.



"Sometimes, vendors paint their accessories with golden paint," writes Geoffk C., "On the other hand, if you're Lenovo, you might produce a mouse made of solid gold."



"When it comes to opening .psd files, I only use %1", writes Tony.



David wrote, "I've completely combed through Tanaguru's website and I still can't figure out how I can contact them."



"Mpan caught firefox performing peculiarly performant," writes M.



Pieter V. wrote, "Just when you don't expect an application crash to be sarcastic, VLC delivers."



"Oh, no, thank you, Microsoft for the pretty 'thank you' dialog," writes Tom G.



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Just The Fax, Ma'am

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 11:30:00 GMT

Gus had been working at his new job for a month. Most of his tickets had been for front-end work, making it easier and more efficient to manage the various vendors that the company did business with. These were important flags like "company does not accept UPS deliveries" or "company does not accept paper POs". The flags had been previously set via an aging web-based UI that only worked in Internet Explorer 6, but now they were migrating one at a time into the shiny new HTML5 app. It was tiring work, but rewarding. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, Gus quickly became pigeonholed as "the flag guy". Whenever it came time in the project to add new flags, there was no question who'd get the ticket. Gus could think of nothing he looked forward to less than touching the Oracle-based backend to the product, but unfortunately, it was his burden to bear. Adding flags to the database involved going through a special Database Committee. This was separate from the usual change request process. The committee was formed from all 6 of the company's database experts, and they personally reviewed every change. Worse, they were stodgy as all get-out. Any small error would get the change thrown out and the requestor berated for "wasting my time", along with a good helping of grumbling about "kids these days" and "narcissistic millennials" to boot. Gus submitted his change request asking for a new field 2 weeks ahead of when it was slated to go live, just in case. Submissions were due by Monday and were discussed on Thursday, with the results posted first thing Friday morning on the bulletin board outside the breakroom. Gus filled in every field carefully, checking the whole thing twice—all but the title, which he'd written as "New Database Feild". On Tuesday, he realized his typo. He quietly edited the form, saved it, then crossed his fingers. Friday rolled around and his change wasn't on the list, neither accepted nor rejected. Chewing his lip, Gus pulled up the change system and skimmed for his change. It was marked auto-rejected. "What did you do?" demanded Chuck, the senior developer who'd been mentoring him. "I don't know!" Gus replied. "Do you think it was the typo? But I fixed it on Tuesday!" Chuck slapped his forehead with his palm. "You changed the form? Don't ever change the form after it's submitted! That's grounds for automatic rejection!" "It's okay," Gus said weakly. "We still have another week." Chuck just looked at him, shaking his head as he walked away. Gus spent the rest of the day focusing on the tedious form. There were dozens of fields, each with vague instructions, many demanding long explanations. Gus wouldn't be at the meeting to explain his change; he had to convince the committee it was necessary through the form alone. Worse, when he submitted it, it routed through an approval process that required him to chase down no less than 6 individuals to fill out their parts of the form. "Yes, it's the same one as last week. Just put the same thing you did then. No, sorry, I don't know why it was rejected," he lied. "Can you just sign?" Monday came and went without another auto-rejection. Gus checked compulsively every day at lunchtime, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but his request made it to Thursday without incident. Finally, Friday came, and he made the trek to the breakroom to check the list. His change had been rejected. He didn't know why. He didn't care why. The application needed to be up and running for the first of the month—the following Tuesday. There was no time to try again. Gus walked over to Chuck's cube, his mind whirling. "What do you know about data hiding?" Chuck's face fell. He rubbed his face with one hand. "Dammit, this is why I try to pull front-end tickets." "You gotta help me, dude. I'm dying here!" "Okay, okay, let me think. I've heard about some guys slipping an extra so-called check-digit into integer fields. You have to mask it out before the code gets to it, but ..." Gus grimaced. "I'd never [...]

The Logic Barrier

Tue, 15 Nov 2016 11:30:00 GMT

Brad was brought in as a new hire to work on improvements for a big-name ERP system. His supposed role would be that of the "input guy" for a new I/O module where engineers would enter some numbers, they would be crunched, and it would output a wireframe design of what they needed to build. While he got started, the development manager Cindy assured him they'd have an "output guy" soon enough. A month passed while Brad was making good progress. One Monday, Cindy walked up to his desk with a tall, dark-haired gentleman in tow. "Brad, this is Dmitry, your 'output guy'." "Hello Bard. I am Dmitry. Please to see you," he introduced himself with a firm handshake and large grin. After Dmitry got settled in, Cindy came back to Brad and told him in a hushed tone, "He just got here from Russia. He might be a little hard to understand, but boy can he code! You might need to give him a little guidance since your part of the application comes first, but I'm sure it will work out great!" So began several arduous weeks of Brad working on his input interface about 15 minutes a day, while assisting Dmitry the rest of the time. They got far enough to prepare an end-to-end demo for Cindy. When she arrived, Brad put in the specifications for some plumbing parts he found online. They were passed to Dmitry's code and out came what looked like a reject from Rorschach's inkblot test. "Oh no!" Dmitry cried. "I think I forget to check in part of code. Need a little more time," he requested with a grin and a nod. "Brad!" Cindy shouted, crossing her arms. "You obviously aren't getting through to Dmitry. Before the next end-to-end test, I want you to test your own components first, then cross-test each other's. I expect better results next time!" Brad ran through his own code exhaustively while Dmitry supposedly did the same. "Dmitry, I'm ready to exchange code when you are. Everything seems ok on my end." "Oh yes! My code is good, yes. Add a few more DLL, more logging. Great now," Dmitry assured him. Brad attempted to test Dmitry's code but couldn't even get it to run. He found several initial run blocks, proving Dmitry never even once ran his code because surely he would have noticed the myriad uninitialized collections and NullReferenceExceptions. Brad explained the situation and offered assistance but Dmitry assured him "No, no. You sit, I code and fix it up." An hour passed before Brad got an email from Dmitry with a .zip attachment that said "Deploy new DLL. Code working." Brad did just that only to find the code NOT working. With day turning to night on the Thursday before their Friday demo, Brad decided it would be more efficient to dig in and fix Dmitry's code himself. "Dmitry, just head home. I have some troubleshooting to do on my code," he lied. "I'll get it fixed up before the demo." "Maybe you need the coding practice!" Dmitry grinned while putting on his jacket. "Goodest luck, tomorrow bring great success." Brad committed the changes to Dmitry's code around midnight in what amounted to a complete re-write. Weary, he went home relieved that Cindy would be off his back for a while after the demo. That would give him time to figure out what to do about Dmitry. The following afternoon, the demo to Cindy went off without a hitch now that it had been purged of most of Dmitry's code. Cindy was pleased with the results, "great job gentlemen! How about we go out to the pub to celebrate! I'm buying the first round." Brad would have preferred to go home to collapse, but he couldn't pass up a free drink. The three of them engaged in awkward small talk over a round of beers. Dmitry offered to buy the next round when he switched to vodka. Cindy left after Round 2, leaving Brad and Dmitry who both seemed to have an unquenchable thirst. Brad was growing to like Dmitry when he ordered yet another round, putting them on the verge of not being able to stand. Dmitry leaned over to him, bleary eyed and said, "let me tell you a little secret." In perfect[...]