I've seen things you people wouldn't believe... ;-) (was Re: age of Python programmers)

Christopher T King squirrel at WPI.EDU
Wed Sep 1 17:54:41 CEST 2004


On Tue, 24 Aug 2004, Peter Hansen wrote:

> Andrea Griffini wrote:
> > I've seen things you people wouldn't believe... ;-)
> 
> I think many of us would believe it.  We've been there.

Agreed.

> How many could post stories of companies without
> any form of revision control, except perhaps those
> printouts in Winnifred's bottom drawer from last year?

I certainly could.

> Or people who resorted to print statements during

Hey, print statements are a perfectly valid form of debugging! :)

If you want a story though, I interned at a Windows shop these past two
summers, where all their programming was done in VB embedded in Word
documents, or in a third-party supplied castrated version of VB (on the PC
side, that is; they still use COBOL on their mainframes).

They had this one script (a VB program in a Word document) whose sole
purpose was to watch some directories and upload files placed there to an
FTP server, possibly mangling CSV files into Excel or Word format.  This
thing was a 1000-line-long beast which took forever to run and wasn't very
reliable.  My job was to maintain it.

For some reason I had made my changes under a different username than that
which was used to run it.  For about a week, we couldn't figure out why
none of my changes were taking effect.  We finally discovered that the
Word document didn't actually contain any code:  rather, all the code was
kept in the standard document template, and was executed when opening any 
Word document.  One of the first things the script did was to check if the 
name of the file that was opened was the one that we had assumed contained 
the script, and only executed the rest of the code if this was true.  
Since each user has their own document template file, this explained our 
problem.

Fed up with the beast, I promptly rewrote the thing in Perl (which is what 
they had technically hired me for); it was 1/10 the size and 10x faster 
(literally!), but no-one would hear anything of it (despite repeated 
explanations that It Really Worked! and Yes, You Really Do Have Perl 
Installed On Your Network Drive!).

But now that's just getting way off-topic :P




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