Wednesday, June 12, 2024

A Date This Weekend? – The Daily WTF

Programming LanguageA Date This Weekend? - The Daily WTF


Alan worked on a website which had a weekly event which unlocked at 9PM, Saturday, Eastern Time. The details of the event didn’t matter, but this little promotion had been running for about a year and a half, without any issues.

Until one day, someone emailed Alan: “Hey, I checked the site on Sunday, and the countdown timer displays 00:00:00.”

Alan didn’t check their email on Sunday, and when they checked the site, everything was fine, so he set himself a reminder to check things out next Sunday, and left things alone for a week.

Well, Alan forgot on Sunday. It was his day off after all, but he did remember to check first thing on Monday. When he came in, the timer read 00:00:00. Alan had a twelve o’clock flasher. Oddly, when he checked it after grabbing some coffee, the timer now showed the correct value.

It was time to dig through the code. Now, this story happened quite some time ago, so the countdown timer itself was a Flash widget. But the widget received a parameter from the HTML DOM, which itself was generated by PHP, and it didn’t take long to find the SQL query it was using to find the next event: SELECT next_event FROM event_timer.

Yes, event_timer was a one column, one row table. A quick search through the codebase found the table referenced only one other place: backend_settimer.php.

All the pieces came together: resetting the timer was an entirely manual process. Every Monday, Tina came in, and assuming she remembered, she reset the timer. Some days she did it late, or forgot entirely. Some weeks, she was on vacation. Maybe she remembered to delegate, maybe she didn’t.

For roughly 72 weeks, this had been how things had been working.

The good news was that the date was getting parsed with the PHP strtotime function, which meant Alan merely had to go to the backend_settimer.php and set the value to Next Saturday 9pm, and let Tina know she didn’t need to do this anymore.

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