Posts from the ‘Back to high tech’ Category

Here We Go Again

Well the plan worked. The contract job at AT&T has lead to a full-time job. Not just any job it has two of the three things I was looking for except that I was hoping for a job with any ONE of those things. It is a start up and once November roles around I’ll be working from home. I don’t think we will be changing the world the way GPS and digital publishing did though. Serendipity certainly played a big roll in getting this job. The person hiring me is they guy who started at AT&T right after I did. He was looking for full-time permanent employment in the Dallas area and came across this company. He is going to focus on IT infrastructure and the database while I handle the web work. The great part is that he is also very strong on ColdFusion so he can answer my questions about the newer versions and I am strong enough on the DB side to be of help to him.

The company is ClinicApps.com and it will start out doing template based web sites for chiropractors. Not terribly exciting per se but I will be learning a lot about jQuery and the latest version of ColdFusion. I really want to work hard at making sure the sites don’t look like templates. The idea is to deliver the web sites for free and then up charge for educational add-ons. Down the road the owner wants to move into web-based office management software and after that on to other vertical markets like dentists or veterinary offices. The plus he has in this space is that he currently is the equipment supplier to 14,000 chiropractors and feels that gives him a large customer base out the door.

The only down side is that the office is 26 miles from where I am living right now. While that is considerably less than I drove from Smithville to the north side of Austin there is also considerably more traffic and a toll road. Oh well, in a few short months my commute will be from the bedroom to the kitchen to my home office.

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Second Impressions

By Wednesday afternoon of last week there was another new CF developer so I am no longer the newest guy. Our laptops showed up Thursday and most of my permissions were in place Friday. Monday I actually got assigned some work and am chugging through it now. The particular development framework that is being used, Fusebox 3, also known as Mach III, is really bad. Frameworks are supposed to make life simpler and this one simply gets in the way. Of course we are working on a system started over five years ago and most of the original team is gone so we are all poking around trying to figure out what is going on.

The team seems pretty sharp. We have all the characters. The guy who has been here forever, the foreign guy, the talented but a bit full of himself guy, the old guy with a war story for everything who about has a heart attack if he has to walk from the far parking lot because he is so over weight. I am sure I fit some stereotype too. From what I have seen so far though it does look like they all know what they are doing so hopefully we can get this thing under control.

The database is a bigger mess than I imagined. Because of the lack of primary keys text values that are used as labels for things like severity are then carried along and stored as string literals in a data record about a specific event. My current task is to change a bunch of the labels which means a report run against the new values will not bring back any of the data with the old values. Naturally the next thing we will have to do is a manual update to change the ‘old’ data.

I am the first to admit that code I wrote five years ago would be written differently today so I don’t hold that against people and every DBA has to start somewhere but it really feels like the entire team that started this project were beginners in their respective fields.

First Impressions of the New Job

WARNING TO NON-TECHNICAL TYPES – BORING AND PARTIALLY INCOMPREHENSIBLE!

Well day two at the large communications company is over. Still no computer but at least I hooked up with a couple of guys who actually seem to work on the Coldfusion stuff. Especially compared to the guy I met yesterday. I got walked through the process and watched a bug being fixed. Only three different releases in four different environments to support. The sad part about the bug is that it was already “fixed” once. The problem was when a submit button was pressed under certain conditions the page blew up. Instead of figuring out why the developer just said under this condition don’t allow a submit. Wrong solution. At the same time the real solution was scary. I won’t go in to details because you will fall asleep but I’ll say that this is a very fragile system. Seems to have been built by a bunch of amateur CF and Oracle developers and now we get to deal with things like database tables with no primary keys. This causes a lot of values to be hard coded in the system, including values that can EXPIRE over time. That was the root cause of today’s problem. An ID for a part of the company had changed.

I also got to sit in on a phone call about tonight’s tomorrow’s code release and then got a walk through of the process. It includes developers downloading the release files and manually inspecting to be sure their changes are in place. During the walk through, which was just a random example for me, we found an error in a file! Code is still being edited today for release to production tomorrow. I don’t think the idea of a code freeze exists here. To my colleagues from LibreDigital/NewsStand I salute how “mature” our process was. Crap, I may have to put my manager hat on in a little bit and explain how screwed up this is. I am not saying we didn’t do some of this but then again people’s pay didn’t depend on our code either.

No one works in the office five days a week which gives me hope that if I can prove my worth in six months I may be able to work from Smithville and come up here once a week or less. So far all meetings have been held on the phone as the team is spread across the country. Even get togethers between two people in the same building are done on-line. One CF developer, the cause of the earlier problem, works from San Antonio.

Not to sound too full of myself but I think I am going to start kicking ass once I get the process and tools down. (OK, so I sound full of myself) I’ll be getting handed a piece no one else is working on so I’ll have some autonomy. Strangely enough it is called NSR which to me means NewsStand Reader. I have to stop for a few milliseconds every time I hear that and translate. Essentially the whole tool is a reporting system which means learning the database as well. Fortunately it is Oracle so I understand the version of SQL. Unfortunately it is a Windows only world.

Today I also started the “on boarding” process. Gave the information to the person in charge of the team that allowed her to request a company ID for me. Once I get that I can complete step two and once that is done step three, etc., etc., etc. Of course the information I gave her is stuff the company that placed me here could have given them last week but…

I suspect tomorrow will be deadly dull again as at least one, if not both of the guys I was working with today will not be in.

What a Day

Today I moved to Dallas, Osama Bin Laden was killed and it is freaking pouring outside along with hail. Quite a day.

Tomorrow I rejoin the high tech ranks.

My Apartment is pretty nice. I actually ended up with a 1 and 1 instead of an efficiency. Not any practical difference but it feels a little more upscale. I have a view of the pool once you look past the dog walking area.

When I checked in I signed a document saying I would leave the washer, dryer and microwave when I moved out. When I went to fix dinner I realized there was no microwave. Fortunately I had bought spaghetti and sauce at the grocery store. I noted the missing microwave and shower curtain rod on my move in sheet.

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