Thursday, February 23, 2006

Tooooo early

It's 5:30 am - yes, there are two times a day when the clock rolls through the five o'clock hour.

There was a big software release last night. The installation crew was here from 9pm until 1 or so - some emails to me were timed at 12:42. Though none of my programs went out I was still asked to be part of the come-in-early crew in case something doesn't work. So the 3:15 alarm clock, shower then donuts on the way brings me in at 4:45. Evidently they had problems last night so I had to test my stuff, all worked OK on my side.

Our call center opens at 5am - it's collections, to phone late accounts. They start on the east coast, calling states where the law permits 8am collections phone calls. The dialer - part of my programs go through accounts that are late and creates lists of phone numbers to call. These lists are passed on to a computer that dials the phones, then when one answers transfers the call to one of the waiting operators. So the dialer is programmed with state rules, and only calls areas when permitted. Our collection center is open from 5am to 9pm to place calls. Customer service, those that answer incoming calls, is staffed from 7am to 7pm. (all local times)

Our software is also at four agencies that we contract with to also call late accounts. There is one in Texas, Canada (I think Toronto), Virginia and Oregon. So I get calls for software problems from those locations as well. I have a program that lets me use a computer at those sites as if I was sitting there, so that I can test things and fix problems.

The programs that were changed deal with our Oracle database, the 'middle tier' programs that look at that database, and the web services that my programs talk to, which call middle tier programs and return data. That's the way our (and Microsoft's) computer direction is headed - lots of machines, each doing a little bit. I kind of liked programming, when I could create a program that ran on one PC, with one person in control. If fifty people were running my program and one computer broke the other 49 could still do things. Now we are back to the old mainframe days, where every machine is dependent on the one computer in the center. If that one breaks then everyone just sits. Sorry Microsoft, I think going backwards is not the way to move ahead. (those of you without computer backgrounds feel free to ignore the above). Back when I worked on mainframe computers I usually worked the midnight to eight shift, in order to get time on the computer when I could test without disturbing users.

So we are back to the old days, with programmers having to come in at night in order to put new stuff on the main machines. And because most programmers test their software in a special test environment, there are usually problems when the changes are moved to the main system. Resulting in a dozen people being here last night until 1am, and five of us coming in at five still fixing things. Oh well, I'm not the boss, just cash your paycheck and shut up Joe.

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