Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Minor War Stories I

The past couple of weeks, reading stuff on the web has triggered a few fun memories:

  • At one job the users out in field offices used to use PC Anywhere over modems to control a machine on our actual network.  There was computer rooms lined with aisles of PCs all working just like they were controlled by ghosts.  If the spooky to see at first.  When a user needed support we’d walk into their computer room and sit at their terminal and help them out; remote support in reverse!
  • At another job there were lots of mainframe billing systems and such and interfacing with them was a pain.  It meant going through hoops trying to get the BOFHs in some dungeon in the midlands to accept change requests and such.  So we used to make VB apps that screen-scraped terminals to automate things like data-migration.  In some cases, we’d use a VB terminal scraper to submit a print job and then attach another computer using a crossover printer cable to eat the results using another VB app!  The BOFHs noticed their utilisation crept up so they did a major upgrade one weekend…  Monday morning they found utilisation had shot up to eat the head-room they’d just brought - all they’d done is make the mainframes serve our scrapers that much faster and the scrapers had eaten that new capacity.  It took them a while to discover the scraper and printer trick.  Thats how I fuzzily remember it, anyhow.
  • Classic VB was a really good language and tool.  Even VBA in Excel and Access, and especially COM components.  Now this is a controversial claim because VB is widely derided. That’s because it was accessible to a whole bunch of people who simply weren’t good programmers or they just weren’t trying or something, or maybe its a name and elitism thing.  If you actually used the damn thing, you can appreciate how beautiful it was.  Nearly as beautiful as the first Delphi, which came after.  Fun related reading by Joel Spolsky
  • When I was working for Metrowerks I got caught editing the Metrowerks Codewarrior IDE code in … jEdit
  • The Metrowerks win32 compiler got some optimisation love around 2001 or so and I tested it out on my competition-style C++ code.  And it was massively faster than VC++6 and GCC and later the first Intel compiler.  It was massively faster (on my kind of tight inner loops).  Doubtless there is other code it was less suited to, but Codewarrior never got the attention the compiler deserved on the windows desktop sadly; the competition was mostly free
  • MS SQL Server used to require OS/2

 ↓ click the "share" button below!