Recent Feature Articles

Mar 2020

Wrecking the Curve

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FORTRAN punch card (public domain)

Most of our WTFs are produced on modern hardware, but today we're taking you back to the dawn of computing, back to the 1960s, when our submitter, Robert, was in college. Rob was taking a class in Numerical Analysis, which allowed people to submit their programs to the university computer (singular, as this was before computers were cheap enough to have a whole lab of 30+ of them just lying around for students). This involved using a keypunch machine to punch cards to run a FORTRAN program that might give you the answers to your homework. It was marginally faster than using a slide rule, until you factored in that students had low priority on the queue to submit their programs to be run, so they'd have to wait hours, if not days, to get access. Most students didn't even bother with the expensive machine, simply doing their maths the old-fashioned way and leaving it at that.

A Military Virus

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The virus threats we worried about in the late 90s are quite different than the one we're worrying about in 2020, because someone looked at word processors and said, "You know what that needs? That needs a full fledged programming language I can embed in documents."

Alex was a sailor for the US Navy, fresh out of boot, and working for the Defense Information School. The school taught sailors to be journalists, which meant really learning how to create press releases and other public affairs documents. The IT department was far from mature, and they had just deployed the latest version of Microsoft Word, which created the perfect breeding ground for macro viruses.

The Renegade Datacenter

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Datacenter Cloudwatt

The bank Edward worked for had a datacenter problem. Said datacenter resided in the basement of their headquarters. Over a twenty-year period, it had been expanded twice, and now covered the entire floor. There was simply no place left to go. The datacenter contained everything from state-of-the-art racks to $10 Ethernet hubs that no one had touched in a decade, and many of these mission-critical components were situated directly upon the floor. Every other week or so, some technician would trip on a cable and knock out a server or switch.

Simple Class

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JSON vector logo

Sometimes, you just know one of your coworkers isn't pulling his or her weight on the team. Sometimes it's the slacker co-worker, the one you always see browsing Facebook or getting coffee and never on pull requests or in architecture meetings. Sometimes it's the absent one, the one always seeming to be on sick leave or "working from home." And sometimes it's the guy who you wish would slack off just so you could stop reviewing his inane, poorly-executed code.

Humble Origins

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I've decided to bring my tenure as a Daily WTF contributor to an end. I've had a great time telling your tech tales of woe the past 6.5 years. I can't thank Alex, Remy, and Mark enough for giving me this opportunity and for being great to work with. In my final article, I'd like to actually tell my own WTF tale - my "origin story", if you will - about my first IT job.

Way back in 2002, I was a fresh-faced 16 year-old kid with a driver's license and a car to pay for. That meant seeking employment anywhere I could get it. My first job at a sub sandwich shop lasted long enough to learn that I didn't want to deal with disgusting food/dishes every day. My next job at a "lackluster" video store taught me that I couldn't deal with customers, especially when they were upset about late fees. I decided to set my sights on something I actually had a knack for - working on computers.

I managed to land a low-paying IT internship with the internal application development team at a plastics manufacturing company. They made the software the company used to do everything from track materials and orders to real-time monitoring of the molding machines. They were looking for someone young to do all the grunt work around the office and I was just the guy.

The 4000 Characters

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Containers and cloud deployments are made for each other. Using say, a Docker configuration file, you can pass that off to a cloud host, and get an environment whipped up in a declarative fashion without having to worry about all the ugly details of exactly how that happens. With tools like Docker’s Compose, you can spin up many components all in one big, declarative YAML block.

Or can you? Ricardo P was running into problems with deploying to the cloud. Specifically, when deploying to Azure, he got this error message: Linux Version is too long. It cannot be more than 4000 characters. That’s such an odd message, and when Ricardo started digging around, it wasn’t really easy to see what it was referring to when it was talking about “Linux Version”.

The Document Cursor

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IniCAD was one of the world's largest purveyors of CAD software. In the earlier days of this industry, they used more "industrial" sales models: rarely did you buy a license from IniCAD directly, but instead bought through a dealer who was technically a third party, but essentially was IniCAD's representative.

If you build designs in CAD, at some point you need to turn these into drawings. In the industry, the drawings are 2D, static images that represent a canonical representation of your picture of the object/building/machine being designed. They're one of the primary tools for making sure that all of the various teams working on a large scale construction or fabrication project can all communicate accurately and precisely. Nothing is worse than having a building's electrician working from one drawing as they plan their wiring, and having the framers working from another drawing, and putting their walls in different places than the engineer expects.