Alex Papadimoulis

Alex is a speaker and writer who is passionate about looking beyond the code to build great software. In addition to founding Inedo - the makers of BuildMaster, the popular continuous delivery platform - Alex also started The Daily WTF, a fun site dedicated to building software the wrong way.

Classic WTF: Python Charmer

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When comparing your language to a snake*, be careful to not get bitten. (*Yes, I know, the name of the language is a reference to Monty Python, not snakes). Original. --Remy

"I don't have a whole lot of experience in Python," writes Jakob, "in fact, when I was hired, the only thing I knew about the language was that whitespace was important."

"Fortunately — actually, unfortunately — it doesn't take a whole lot of experience in Python to recognize that my company's codebase is... well... sub-optimal. Submitted for your approval is a method used to generate a password, found in our network security library."

Classic WTF: What's in a Name?

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We continue our summer break. Sometimes, you need to make a bad choice in your design, and you can often "fix" that, with documentation. "Don't touch the sharp pointy bit." But, not to spoil the ending, sometimes the documentation raises more questions than it answers. Original. --Remy

The year was 1993, and that meant one thing: Old Iron was finally ready for the scrap yard retirement after nearly fifteen years of faithful service to the university. Technically, the MVS-based mainframe had been well past its prime for quite a many years, but since it was used primarily as a data repository for research projects, no one seemed to mind. But what they would mind, however, was any sort of downtime in the transition to the new, UNIX -based research computer, so it was up to Todd M. Lewis to figure out how to ensure things went smoothly.

In order to give researches the opportunity to learn their way around Unix and adjust their processes for the new environment without disrupting ongoing work on Old Iron, Todd set up a migration process that would pull MVS data sets from the backup system (as not to interfere with “live” data sets users may be using) and copy them to an archive on the UNIX server. From there, users could check out copies from this archive and work with them under UNIX to hone their processes. If they screwed up the data, they could just check it out again from the archive.

Classic WTF: XML Anybody?

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We're taking our summer break, which means we reach back into the archives and find some classics. This one teaches you everything you need to know about generating XML. --Remy

XML is an absolutely wonderful innovation. It allows us to easily describe and share just about any data immaginable. Of course, there's always gotta be someone (as Tim points out) who has to go and ... well ... see for yourself ...

Classic WTF: Worse Than Failure

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So, it's a holiday in the US, and I'll be honest: the way I pick my holiday posts is by hitting the "Random Article" button until something fun pops out. And this time around, it gave me something to be thankful for: that this remains "The Daily WTF" and not… something Worse Than Failure. --Remy

Final Update: thankfully this is all nothing but an embarrassing memory.

As you can probably tell by now, The Daily WTF is now named Worse Than Failure. Don’t worry – nothing else is changing – it’s still the same ole’ WTF.

Classic WTF: Insecurity Doors

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It's Thanksgiving day in the US, and today, I'm thankful I'm not the person who had to spend the weekend hastily attaching baffles to 650 doors in a skyscraper because no one thought about how motion sensors worked. Original --Remy

It was a heck of a party and everyone was invited, from the executive vice president to the janitorial staff. There was champagne, shrimp, cake, and even a string quartet. There were door prizes, balloons, and all sorts of bank-branded knickknacks being given away. And it was all for good reason: the bank had just completed its high-tech, sixty-five story downtown corporate headquarters, and it was the tallest building within a three-hundred mile radius.

Virtually no expense was spared for the bank's skyscraper: a renowned architect was commissioned to design the building, skilled artisans adorned the corridors with marble statues, acoustical consultants made sure the lobby had just the right echo, and, most importantly, the world's foremost security firm was brought in to lock things down tighter than Fort Knox. It was considered less of a building and more of a work of art. The pinnacle of this creation was the high-tech sliding doors used throughout the building; this was the first time that StarTrek-esque doors were used on such a large scale.

Classic Errord: Phone Pain

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We're reaching back for a blast-from-the-past for today's Errord, all the way from 2009. How little things really change. Original - Remy

"This phone booth in Windhoek is obviously in distress," Chris Pliers writes, "who should I call?"

Classic WTF: Security By Oblivity

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It's a holiday in the US, so once again, it's time to reach back into the archives. Two-Factor Authentication is pretty standard these days, but once upon a time, it felt far more cumbersome to use. This story from 2006 highlights some… unique solutions to the problem. Original --Remy

Laptops are blessing for many corporate workers: never before has it been so easy to bring work home and neglect one's family to get in a few extra hours of unpaid overtime. As eager as employees are to do this, the mean ole' folks in IT Security are not. They cite all these news stories about sensitive data being lost as a result of laptops and remote access, and say it's just not safe to bring the company work home.

Thankfully, the IT Security director at MK's company (a fairly large banking institution) knows that the ability to conveniently work remotely is much more important than working securely. Shortly after some mean ole' regulatory agency mandated that remote access is secured with a VPN that requires typing in a constantly changing passcode from a physical token, the director had just the solution for everyone ...

Classic WTF: Very, Very Well Documented

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It's Independence Day in the US, but today, let's instead celebrate our dependence on good quality documentation. It matters. Even when we measure the size of that documentation in meters, instead of freedom units. Original -- Remy

Just about all of the systems I’ve written about here share quite a few things in common: they are poorly designed, poorly coded, and even more poorly documented. Today, I’m happy to share with you a system that doesn’t quite fit in with all the rest. It’s actually very sound software and, most of all, it’s well documented. Very, very well documented.

George Nacht is a software engineer in certain a Post-Communist European country. In the mid-1990’s, his government decided that it was time to replace their foreign, Soviet-era fighter jets with modern, less expensive aircrafts of domestic design. And since they were modernizing their fleet, they decided to modernize their pilot training as well. This meant that new, interactive flight-simulator software needed to be developed.