austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Trust me; you know you've got to trust me

I was hired back in September 2008 so I could set up a little web service thing which I won't name for fear of Google Alerts and libel suits. As usual for efficiency at my company, which I'll again not name for similar reasons, I didn't get any actual data on what to do for months, and my project was lost in waiting for the other company's services to be made accessible in any way for us to install, while they waited for us to fill out non-disclosure agreements that, in a fit of non-disclosing, they failed to tell us we needed to fill out. One day we found they talking to potential clients whom we knew and ambushed them, getting a sales person where he couldn't pretend we didn't exist; he didn't know what we needed but promised to put us in touch with someone who could get it, and soon, we were able to download a services package which didn't work.

I mean, it didn't work at all, producing a string of cryptic errors which, according to the web browser, were generated on lines of code which were nonexistent and in files which weren't part of the services at all. We went on for months like this until finally we gave up on the design they claimed would work --- services on one server, data on another server with much more storage space --- although I note they never said how to set that up except that you just ``installed it'', which we did, and it ``would work'', which it did not. Instead we put everything on one server and ... it didn't work.

Finally and after e-mails to the programmer we knew, and posts to their (over-moderated, worthless) Community Forum failed, I called the sales guy we had ambushed and told him, the project I was hired for has failed, utterly, because their web services package does not work in any way. And to his credit, this got his attention. He soon set up a conference call for the next day with him, me, my server guy, and his programmer guy, although he and my server guy weren't able to make it, and it was moved to two days later anyway.

Still, the phone call was worth something, as I described the many ways their services don't work and he agreed that they ought to work. Since then we've been in a back-and-forth of him posting a revision of the services every couple of hours, with more debugging lines in; I then install that, attempt to run it, and report back the messages it gives when it crashes. He thinks he's pinned the problem down to a ten-line block of code, most likely a memory problem, and we might have it fixed with a few more iterations. Meaning that I might finally be able to start work on the thing I was hired for twenty months ago.

Incidentally, their programmer wanted to test the sample reference web page to demonstrate the services which they begrudgingly provide (with installation instructions of ``install it'', and no explanation of how to configure it so it actually works), but I couldn't give him a URL since it's on a development server with a 10.* IP address. I spent an elliptic twenty-minute conversation with my web server guy trying to ask if there were any way to put it on any URL accessible to the outside world and couldn't get the concept across that the other company's programmer, off in another state, couldn't see the site, before giving up.

This is the sort of thing that sends people into academia and keeps them from coming back out again.

Trivia: The first prototype of Atari's Pong used as monitor a $75 Hitachi black-and-white TV set which programmer/designer Al Acorn picked up at a Payless store. Source: The Ultimate History Of Video Games, Steven L Kent.

Currently Reading: Step Right Up, Brooks McNamara. It includes scripts for some typical medicine-show patter, the comedy routines used to attract people to the commercial part. So on the one hand there's all this minstrel-show humor that's embarrassing to read, like the parts of Krazy Kat we don't linger over, but on the other hand there's all this loopy-wordplay and logic-reversing stuff that's fun to read, like the parts of Krazy Kat we do linger over other than that brick thing.

[ And why is it so hard to find the lyrics to the Electric Prunes's ``The Great Banana Hoax'' online? This isn't one of those songs nobody's ever heard of, for crying out loud. I hate going to YouTube videos of live performances and transcribing it for myself. ]


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