Bugs, bugs, everywhere

Sometimes it’s easy to get despondent about bugs showing up in software you write. It’s possible to spend so long on a project that it almost feels like one of your children; any perceived imperfection hits you at your core. We’ve been doing some bugfixing lately, and it can occasionally feel a bit like you’re playing whack-a-mole.

But then you use other software.

I’ve been playing with a major open source PHP survey tool with the brief of making it work in Japanese and Chinese (on a Win2003 IIS box). Now, allegedly it can support these character sets, but in fact it has a little difficulty – so I spent a couple of hours adding the right headers and tweaking things to make it end-to-end UTF-8 compliant. It’ll now take pretty much any character set you throw at it; great.

Until you try and export the data to CSV, so you can import it into Excel. It turns out that Excel has a little buglet when you import CSV files – it ignores the character set and basically assumes everything’s in ASCII. In particular, Japanese looks a bit like a kitten has had a little dance across the keyboard; it’s total gibberish. It turns out you have to rename the CSV file so it has a .txt extension, in order to trigger Excel’s “tell me all about this file because I don’t understand” wizard, which asks you how it’s encoded and makes everything okay again.

After this little adventure, I feel much better about everything. Bugfixing is continuing apace (and will speed up as of next week), but on reflection I think we compare rather well.

This has been an unashamedly techie post, and I apologise – my next one will be about mountain vistas, blue sky thinking and synergy. Or something.






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