workBLOGS . oDAYDreams

Filed Under (work.BLOG) by WildFire on 29-05-2004

A Saturday of a week of client visits... this day is. For most of my life Saturdays were created to quench my laziness... dreaming about being a knight or a magician in the medieval era fighting fierce three headed toxic-breathing dragons using three inch USB switchblades, a laser light as my sword and/or mind control-related powers.

This or the other 1001 dream variations where I came out an unscathed hero at the end of the day, was always the way lazy Saturdays were spent.

Not today.

There were no knights... no swords nor daydreams, just CDRs, keyboards and codes.

Although I bring a backup of my Microsoft Visual Foxpro installer almost every client visit, I seldom end up using it on a client site. This day was different. I spent most of the time re-configuring things and coding at site which I haven't done since I started 'serious freelancing'. I often test things and think of possible and weird scenarios a day or two before each visit. Plan Bs and Plan Cs are formulated in advance.

I guess I underestimated converting an existing project to a simpler one. It was too late when I realized that it is easier to 'complicate' simple programs than making a complicated program simple. I'm talking about Project:Valhalla, a trimmed down version of Project:Sophieia, both Internet Usage Monitoring Systems targeted for Internet Cafes and Computer Laboratories.

On site, the first challenge (or problem) was API related. The codes I made were targeted for Windows XP and Windows 2000. Though I tested it with Windows ME before and was quite sure it was working fine then, it seems Windows 98SE merely logs out the user instead of shutting down the computer. Good thing the first module I made which contains Windows 98SE/ME-compatible codes was included in the CD I brought along. The newer version of that shutdown I made was supposed to work with older versions of Windows but I guess there's really a big difference in theory and once it's working 'out there' already.

The next problem is server related. Though a server in this case, is not present in the client's place. There is however a 'pseudo-server' powered by Windows 98SE (again) but this makes things difficult for me. I was left with no option but to share a folder and map things on the client computers. Problem is... the settings inside the SETUP.dbf, my main configuration database, would be inconsistent already with VALHALLA's client modules and its main server module (directory settings and others). The pseudo-server was not partitioned too, so, I cannot merely place the program in Drive D: and map the shared folder as drive D. Had this been Windows XP, drive letters could be changed, though I'm not sure if it can change the primary boot drive too.

Running the program on a read-only CD-ROM is also out of the pool of possible solutions since it needs to write things.

Good thing I brought along an old compiled Essentials CD I compiled a year ago which contains the PowerPack TweakNow 2003 application which can create virtual drives. TweakNow saved the day in terms of that problem.

After a free lunch (which these days have been a sort of silent unspoken agreement between me and my clients), there were some minor-'out-of-nowhere' errors too... certain variables that won't work on the mapped directory but works fine on the un-mapped one, a variable that refuses to update and sticks with its initial value unless you issue another select DBName . Go Top . cInt = DBName.Field_001 lines of code, a stubborn CD-ROM that 'buffs-out' which I believe was the source of a heated argument between two IT-related technicians from different companies that visited that place yesterday (another story for now), power-supply related blues, a number of time-field related issues and countless accidental reboots. I also made a couple of on-the-fly reports in that place.

Around 04:30PM when every important issue was treated, test files purged, all other utilities installed, and another batch of snacks, we decided to call it a day.

Walking out of the client's premises, somehow I have this victorious feeling just like those medieval knights battling three-headed dragons on my past lazy Saturday daydreams.

I guess I'm just living out some dreams after all.