Ahhh, e-cards. Once a fun way to express those delicate emotions in a way that only hundreds of retina-burning animated GIFs and a midi version of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" can. Now, a surefire way to get your email added to spammers' mailing lists. Still, it's hard not to smile when you get an e-card.

Years ago, T. I. was working as an intern in the IT department of a small company. On their web site they offered a free e-card service, built by an outside vendor. An outside vendor named Frank. T. I. was tasked with integrating Frank's e-card infrastructure with the company's on-site servers.

Frank's code wasn't great, but it wasn't so horrible that it'd be featured on this, your favorite web site. Frank had even taken the time to add some advanced functionality, like scheduling of cards. For example, if a friend's birthday was coming up, you could queue a card ahead of time and have it automatically sent on his birthday. Naturally, this would be a batch process that would run nightly.

T. I. searched and searched, but just couldn't find the code that dispatched queued cards. He checked every batch job scheduler on every server that could possibly send the cards, but found nothing. Finally, looking through .asp files, he found one that was capable of sending queued cards, but it seemed to be a test script. Frustrated, T. I. called Frank to find out how the batch job was run.

"There's a way to schedule tasks?" Frank replied, surprised. "Well, don't worry about it. I've got it covered."

"What do you mean 'you've got it covered?'" asked T. I.

"I set dispatchqueued.asp as my IE home page. I'm on the internet practically every day, so don't worry about it."

That's right, Frank going online every day was a key component of this production environment.

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