Recent Feature Articles

Sep 2021

The Boulder Factory

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Like a lot of HR systems, the one at Initech had grown into a complicated mess of special cases, edge cases, and business rules that couldn't be explained but had to be followed.

Mark was assigned to a project to manage another one of those special cases: Initech had just sold one of its factories. Their HR system needed to retain information about the factory and its employees up until the point of the sale, but it also needed to be disconnected from some future processing- they certainly didn't want to send anybody any paychecks, for example. But not all processing. If an employee had started a health insurance claim before the factory was sold, they needed to keep that active in the system until it was completed (but also not allow the employee to file new claims).


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A surprising amount of the world runs on FORTRAN. That's not to say that huge quantities of new FORTRAN are getting written, though it's far from a dead language, but that there are vital libraries written fifty years ago that are still used to this day.

But the world in which that FORTRAN was written and the world in which we live today is wildly different. Which brings us to the story of George and Ike.

Some Version of a Process

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When you're a large company, like Oracle, you can force your customers to do things your way. "Because we said so," is something a company like that can get away with. Conversely, a small company is more restricted- you have to work hard to keep your customers happy.

When Doreen joined Initech, they were a small company with a long history and not too many customers. In the interests of keeping those customers happy, each customer got their own custom build of the software, with features tailored to their specific needs. So, Initrode was on "INITRODE.9.1", while the Soggy Beans coffee shop chain was on "SOGGY.5.2". Managing those versions was a pain, but it was Doreen's boss, Elliot, who ensured that pain escalated to anguish.

Classic WTF: Crazy Like a Fox(Pro)

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It's Labor Day in the US. We're busy partaking in traditional celebrations, which depending on who you ask, is either enjoying one of the last nice long weekends before winter, or throwing bricks at Pinkertons. So we dig back into the archives, for a classic story about databases. Original --Remy

“Database portability” is one of the key things that modern data access frameworks try and ensure for your application. If you’re using an RDBMS, the same data access layer can hopefully work across any RDBMS. Of course, since every RDBMS has its own slightly different idiom of SQL, and since you might depend on stored procedures, triggers, or views, you’re often tied to a specific database vendor, and sometimes a version.

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And really, for your enterprise applications, how often do you really change out your underlying database layer?