Jul
22
2006

Lines of co(d|k)e

Commuters are great for advertisers. There are millions of them, they are predictable and they have money. This makes them a prime target to get a new product rolling. For this reason I have been attacked everyday with some form of free version of a new product since I started work. The funny thing is I get of the train at London Bridge station and from there I have a 5min walk at most. During this time I get presented without fail some for of food or drink, 2 newspapers, 3-4 leaflets and normally some form of card holder.

Yesterday (well, Thursday) there were lots of people standing outside the station doors handing out loads and loads of mini cans of the new product “Coke Zero”. This is just a sugar free version of coke with supposedly the same taste. o be fair it isn’t bad, but you can still tell. Plus, its loaded up with aspartame. The really funny thing though was that along the main commuter route that I walk (over London Bridge) there were absolutely thousands of these little cans, empty and on the side. Obviously there are no bins in the city of London thanks to the IRA. There was maybe 200 on each post-box, pillar, box, van, railing…well, pretty much any static object. I wish I had a photo, I really do.

Ok, so that was funny enough, but just to prove they watch what’s going on, today (Friday) there were more people with little drink cans. This time however it was not Coke, this time it was Pepsi showing of their new product, “Pepsi One” which is basically the same as idea (i.e. no sugar). Yet again thousands of cans lines London Bridge for the second time that week.

I bet the city council was annoyed…..

Ok, time to move onto work stuff.

It seems so far I spend a lot of my time working on applications that don’t work. I find this quite cool because I enjoy working out what’s wrong and taking things to bits. The one I’m working on is a particular challenge. First it is a VB6 application designed to run on NT4 in a manor which emulates a service. It has been in use for years now and apart from one bug fix in early 2004 it seems fine.

My task was to take it apart, work it does (so reverse engineer it) and then rewrite it in C# as a real service. Now there are a few problems. The first is that I don’t read VB6 so a day was lost to me learning a fair bit of that. I have now been pulling apart this app for about 3 days. Its one of those things that the more you uncover the more you realise you have left to uncover.

It has now been decided that I’m going to take this back all the way to initial spec, then technical spec, then design and then finally code it. This is not the simple re-code it started as off. You see, the code was written by someone who really was no good, its just it seemed to work so they left it (“it ain’t broke so don’t fix it”….). As a measure of how bad parts of it are I know how bad they are and its not my language!

I have been talking bits over with the guys at work as I find them. I spent an hour on a guy in the states who looks after the server and I pulled a log file from it too. Monday will be spent researching some very important little quirks of SQL server 2000. Basically, the app works, but they are so lucky it does. The error checking is so bad that it may as well not be there in many cases. To prove this point (and how bad the app is) I opened the log file. It was a 118MB text file (txt). It takes a while to open in word and when it did it was over 28,000pages. It has been generating 2 errors every 20seconds for the last 6months!

One of the developers did point out that at least I can really screw my version up and still be an improvement!

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