Jul
10
2006

The first hurdle is there only to trip you

I’m conscious that all I have been talking about is computers. Ok, to be fair I do now work in IT so stuff like that happens.

What I have been neglecting more is that I also work in an office, now that is an odd place.

During today I had notepad open and I just typed a few things that I noticed around me:

  • Those who think they are busy are running around, those who are busy are sitting at their desks.
  • The guy with the most feature filled phone finds making a simple call hard enough.
  • Every time I feel I want a break, in the back of my mind there is this niggling little feeling reminding me that I’m being paid a fair bit to work. The really strange part is that quite often I know full well that getting up and wandering around (i.e taking a break from the screen) will help me to think a great deal, but still it doesn’t seem to move me (maybe it’s the chair).
  • Office work is all about image and impression. Today a work experience kid came in for a bit. He would have seen me sitting at my huge desk, on my fully adjusted chair, sitting in front of a very impressive looking computer with more screens than I expect he has seen before. My desk is covered in papers, lines of code and expensive looking pens. On my screen is yet more lines of the most complicated SQL he could ever have seen (he probably doesn’t even know what SQL is). How is he to know that I don’t know what I’m doing?

Ok, now for the more IT stuff….

I now know what it means to deal with other peoples code. Today’s task was to take a block of about 350 lines of SQL and fix two bugs in it. One being that the results weren’t ordered as they should have been, and the other being that some percentages went past 100.

Now the most SQL I have even tacked it about 30 lines, and that was quite bad enough. This however was written in India by a man who really didn’t know much about what he was doing (although annoyingly, enough to make people think he did). This man has since been sacked if that gives you an idea of the code. It was slow, inefficient, wrongly formatted and more insightful comments could have been written by deaf monkey in a darkened room with nothing more than litmus paper and a cows anus to write with.

The worst was to come. I spent about 2 hours on the servers picking my way through it, going through the 7 or so (unnecessary) temporary tables it created, reverse engineering it as best I could. It just didn’t make sense, I could not get the number to add up, I could not get thing to be recognised that should have been.

After a while I started to realise that there was something that was more than just wrong. I went of to my college who gave it to me and we poured over it for about 40mins.

We came to the conclusion that there was a lot more wrong with it than people had first thought. Not only did the things I mentioned above not work, but almost all the numbers were wrong.

Now for something to be used as a report, that’s not a good way to go about getting ahead of the competition.

I have now been given the task of rewriting it. We think it can be done in under 100 lines, not 350….

Ok, some of you will be somewhat surprised to head that I don’t live inside a computer> nor do I spend my who day sitting in front of one.

On Sunday I went to a little “party” for a charity I have been helping with since July 2004. They are called PAGEANT (Projects Aiding Gambian Education And Natural Talent). Now I normally help them by packing lots of heavy items into truck, lorries and even 40ft shipping containers. This was a party for one of the Gambian school headmasters who had been flown over and was attending all sorts of courses etc.

As this party I was surrounded by loads of supports of the charity, many of whom had been to the Gambia on trips etc.

I am now toying with the idea of joining their ranks by making a visit myself. You see I got on very well with this Gambian headmaster, he runs a scout troop out there so we instantly had something in common. I am considering making a trip next summer (nice and hot) so I have a week when the schools are still open s o I can visit a few of them, and then a further few weeks so I can go camping with their scout group as they go after school finishes.

The idea is very much in the “tentative” stage, but thoughts are gathering pace in my head. I think it would be a really excellent learning experience for me, and a good opportunity to teach a few Gambian scouts some new tricks.

The idea of going alone is a little bit much for me, but I have a few people in mind I’m thinking of suggesting it to to see if they what to join me.

Watch this space…….

(no, the other one)

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