goto fail

Looking for some Saturday evening programmer entertainment? How about a serious security flaw in very widely deployed software caused by a goto statement? What could possibly go wrong?


Here’s Apple’s equivalent of the raptor mauling you. That’s the official version, which doesn’t provide any details (“Apples does not disclose any details”). It just says:

Impact: An attacker with a privileged network position may capture or modify data in sessions protected by SSL/TLS

Description: Secure Transport failed to validate the authenticity of the connection. This issue was addressed by restoring missing validation steps.

But you can find the details in this blog post by Adam Langley, who works at Google on Chrome (I think; the blog post implies that, the site doesn’t say). From that post:

static OSStatus
SSLVerifySignedServerKeyExchange(SSLContext *ctx, bool isRsa, SSLBuffer signedParams,
                                 uint8_t *signature, UInt16 signatureLen)
	OSStatus        err;

	if ((err = SSLHashSHA1.update(&hashCtx, &serverRandom)) != 0)
		goto fail;
	if ((err = SSLHashSHA1.update(&hashCtx, &signedParams)) != 0)
		goto fail;
		goto fail;
	if ((err =, &hashOut)) != 0)
		goto fail;

	return err;

Note the two goto fail lines in a row. The first one is correctly bound to the if statement but the second, despite the indentation, isn’t conditional at all. The code will always jump to the end from that second goto, err will contain a successful value because the SHA1 update operation was successful and so the signature verification will never fail.

Someone found that entertaining enough to put it on a t-shirt. A few more pre-orders and it’ll get printed.

Talk to Me – Making websites accessible

In 2013, I gave a talk about making websites accessible, at several conferences. The last session was in September 2013 at the jQuery Austin conference. While the conference itself didn’t record videos, I made a local recording myself, which I’d like to share via YouTube. The audio and video of myself are recorded with the laptop microphone and camera. The slides and embedded videos are directly captured, so you can see all them in full detail (I used ScreenFlow 4 for that, its certainly worth the money).

You can also look at the original slides and videos or get the source for the slides and a list of further resources.

The original abstract for the talk was this:

A computer that can talk to us has been part of science fiction for a long time. For a number of people it has been a reality for quite a while: Those with limited or no sight at all, usually referred to as blind computer users.

Making web sites and applications work for people that rely on a screenreader poses many interesting challenges. Usually there is no budget for accessiblity, as the number of users affected is small – exceptions apply wherever websites have to conform to regulations like Section 508 (aka Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973). Even when there’s a budget, or just a rogue developer who cares, there a barriers in specifications, tools and testing, that make it hard for the average developer to improve the overall result.

At the same time, although the targeted group of users is relatively small, it’s this group that often benefits the most from a web service, since it can give them a form of independence they might not have in their day to day life, often more than able-bodied users do.

This talk will provide:

  • Good arguments to convince your boss or customer of the value of making a web site or application accessible.
  • An introduction to the software and tools to test against.
  • Examples of the challenges involved and how to overcome them with JavaScript, with a look at the autocomplete and menu widgets in jQuery UI, covering both keyboard and screenreader support.

A half hour talk won’t make you an instant expert, but you should get enough of a boost to make a difference on your next project.

Space Stories

Two stories about space, that turn out to go pretty well together, both, more or less, told by and to software developers. Though I suspect that with a bit of curiosity they are as fascinating to anyone else as they were to me.

To start, Russ Olsen – To the Moon!

The other one is from the Podcast This Developer’s Life, their most recent episode “Space”.

A happy new year 2014!

How to be a more effective git historian with recursive-blame

The ability in Git to search through the commit history locally is one of the major reasons why I never want to work with SVN again. With Git there is no waiting on the server. Git also provides some powerful tools to search that local history, like git-bisect. If you haven’t used bisect, this is super efficient at finding the change that introduced a bug.

Another history tool is git-blame. On its own, its much less efficient for me than bisect, since I mostly have to use it recursively to find the revision that introduced the change I’m looking for. Too often, running ‘blame’ just once doesn’t help. Even worse, the line in question might not even exist in the latest revision anymore, so using blame directly won’t work. When doing a recursive search with blame manually, with Git locally or on GitHub, it can be tricky to track down something with blame since the line in question moved around the file from change to change.

Can we do better? Of course. If one program isn’t efficient enough, write another to compensate. That’s what my friend and colleague Scott González did on his trip to Russia, resulting in recursive-blame. This is a command line tool, written in nodejs, installed via npm (which both run well on Windows, Linux and OSX, a huge plus over other platforms).

Assuming you have node and npm installed, the setup couldn’t be any easier:

npm install -g recursive-blame

Afterwards you can use it likes this:

recursive-blame <path> <pattern>

The pattern is a regular expression, so you may have to escape some characters

As a simple example, today I was reviewing a pull request against jQuery UI, which removed an unnecessary argument from a method call (PR 1104). I wanted to know why that argument was there in the first place. With recursive-blame, that was easy to figure out, and took only a few seconds. To start, I ran this command:

recursive-blame ui/jquery.ui.slider.js 'values: function\('

Since parentheses indicate a group in regular expressions, I escape it with a backslash.

The output is this (I only trimmed the commit message to fit here):

Commit: 87ba795467ee447eb2ab7d95ada42de097c7946f
Author: Richard Worth 
Date:   Fri Apr 2 23:16:46 2010 -0400 (3 years, 7 months ago)
Path:   ui/jquery.ui.slider.js
Match:  1 of 2

    slider: jslint cleanup (thanks for the start zhaoz) and style changes to [...]

381) 		return this._value();
382) 	},
384) 	values: function( index, newValue ) {
385) 		var vals,
386) 			newValues,
387) 			i;

Next action [r,n,p,c,d,q,?]?

This points at the last commit that modified this line. Since its just a code style cleanup, I type “r” for “recurse” to continue searching (the other commands are explained by typing “?”; this is the same interface as you get with “git add -p“):

Next action [r,n,p,c,d,q,?]? r

Commit: 2c5d327debfdc2696267f7d4dba5c0a4335bc165
Author: Richard Worth 
Date:   Mon Oct 12 11:23:59 2009 +0000 (4 years ago)
Path:   ui/jquery.ui.slider.js
Match:  1 of 2

    slider: Removed undocumented noPropagation last arg from values method as [...]

446) 		return this._value();
448) 	},
450) 	values: function(index, newValue) {
452) 		if (arguments.length > 1) {
453) 			this.options.values[index] = this._trimAlignValue(newValue);
454) 			this._refreshValue();

Next action [r,n,p,c,d,q,?]?

This is much more interesting: “Removed undocumented noPropagation last arg from values method”. Exactly what I’ve been looking for. Let’s look at the diff for that commit, via “d”:

Next action [r,n,p,c,d,q,?]? d
diff --git a/ui/jquery.ui.slider.js b/ui/jquery.ui.slider.js
index d27d9af..14e92f6 100644
--- a/ui/jquery.ui.slider.js
+++ b/ui/jquery.ui.slider.js
@@ -421,12 +421,12 @@ $.widget("ui.slider", $.extend({}, $.ui.mouse, {


-	values: function(index, newValue, noPropagation) {
+	values: function(index, newValue) {

 		if (arguments.length > 1) {
 			this.options.values[index] = newValue;
-			if(!noPropagation) this._change(null, index);
+			this._change(null, index);

 		if (arguments.length) {

So this removed the noPropagation argument, along with the if-statement. Afterwards this._change() is always called.

I could dig further to figure out when that flag was introduced, but in this case I’m sure that the flag wasn’t removed by accident, so removing the argument in the call to this.values() must be valid as well. Problem solved!

If you use recursive-blame and run into issues, report them against Scott’s GitHub repo. If you like the tool and want to show some appreciation, donate to Scott on GitTip.

If you have comments about this blog post, let me know.

Update 1:

An alternative to recursive-blame might be git-log with the -L option, a rather recent addition that isn’t yet covered widely. The syntax looks like this:

-L <start>,<end>:<file>, -L :<regex>:<file>

The example near the end of the page is this:

git log -L '/int main/',/^}/:main.c

Shows how the function main() in the file main.c evolved over time.

For the example above, the following command seems to be somewhat effective:

git log -L '/values: function/',/\}/:ui/jquery.ui.slider.js

I haven’t yet figured out how to use the <end> argument properly.

It looks like this has some overlap with recursive-blame, but it doesn’t support multiple matches. The rather poor documentation certainly doesn’t help either.