goznet ...

David's diary: November 2004

Well, I made an extra-special effort to be in early today, and was only about five minutes later than I'd vaguely intended before having a lie-in. Pretty much completely wasted effort though, with over half of my extra twenty five minutes wasted waiting for this machine to boot up over our crock of a network, and then finding - having done a bit of housekeeping in a vain attempt to avoid that in future - that my wonderful Windows roaming profile had done its usual helpful trick and restored all the junk I'd painstakingly stripped out of my webserver last week. Add to that, faffing with my monitor cable - eventually deciding I would prefer slight ghosting to viewing everything in a distinct shade of magenta - and two hours later I am just about ready to start scheduled work for the day. On the bright side, things can - I guess - only get better.

Reasonable weekend just gone, though the jury's still out on whether the bonus hour on Saturday night helped or hindered. Highlights were getting our dinner on Saturday from Cook again - this time going for their new Huntsman's Chicken which was absolutely gorgeous - and finally sorting out a frame for the antique map we were given as a wedding present. Oh, and we very nearly completed both the proper Times crosswords and planned some activities for later this week, so although neither of us was bursting with energy, I think we did quite well...

Great - now I have just started being able to actually get coding, something has died horribly at our old offices, and I can't run up my software anyway. Of course, it also means all our public websites are down, but they are of no tremendous value to be perfectly honest. Tum-te-tum, I'll twiddle my thumbs.

Thankfully by the time I'd gone out for a walk - and just managed to dodge the showers - everything was fine again. Looked like it was probably an NTL fault rather than anything of our own going wrong, which is just as well given the decidedly heath-robinsonesque nature of our networking right now, and no end in sight to actually getting some decent connectivity out of these new premises.

Woo, I spotted a familiar-looking blue connector in the huge translucent tub of cables dumped next to my desk. Consequently, I now have the correct monitor cable, with not a whiff of ghosting and not a hint of magenta - actually doing justice finally to the half-decent graphics card we fitted a couple of weeks ago. Why exactly the cable had to become separated from the stuff I marked up as mine - and indeed locked in my chest of drawers - when we made the office move back in September remains beyond me, but all's well now anyway. Bliss!

Quiet day today, despite there being a few more people in than yesterday. Just being able to plug on fairly productively with this webserver thing, with this afternoon earmarked to write a console-based configuration tool for it, since it won't always be run on systems with a graphical user interface. Indeed the first couple of customers at the very least have asked that we run it on their behalf, and that'll almost certainly be on a Linux-based machine with no GUI.

Also had a distinctly quiet evening yesterday, with a deliberately early night given our decided unwillingness to get up in the morning - and thankfully those of us going into work today found it rather easier to get up than twenty four hours earlier! We watched the first half of The Siege, which we picked up from Woolworths' DVD bargain bin at the weekend, and that I'd not seen since before the September 11th attacks which in many ways it rather uncannily foresaw.

Yes, Katy's been off work altogether today, but it was planned that way, and is because she's now working some full days rather than just half days. Happily her employers seem quite content with her working for them at all, and she was specifically requested to go and work on this particular contract she's just started, which involves a bit more travelling hence the decision to work full days. But we've both got the rest of the week off. I wonder what we shall do?

Perhaps we should take off to Paris for a few days on the Eurostar, what do you reckon? On the other hand, given that that's exactly where we've been since last Wednesday, perhaps we're a bit slow on the uptake in this humble diary..?

And back to reality on Monday, with - needless to say - not much happened in my absence from work. This is the last week I have scheduled for working on this webserver, and I have only a short to-do list before we can get down to testing - though I have also been tasked with making an installer for the main version of the software, which has just become an order of magnitude more complicated through needing MySQL to be installed as part of the process. Oh, and some not entirely surprising news today, that our team line-up is going to be changing quite significantly as from the end of January - more a question of when rather than if, and now we know when. Whether we - whether as a team or as a company - last that long anyway is another question altogether, needless to say...

Nice "enforced" lunchtime stroll, dodging the showers. Enforced because of more network problems rendering my software unrunnable for a short while. All sorted now, though, and the changes effected just before those problems reared their head seem to have worked, so hopefully just a couple of straightforward things to implement and we can get into testing... All quiet here otherwise, just another day, just another pretty uninspiring day. And less than half way through it. I don't hate it here anywhere as much as I did, but I still want more satisfaction from my working life, and there's not really a lot of hope of that for the time being. But it helps pay the bills and the mortgage, helps pay for Parisian sightseeing, wining and dining, and keeps me out of mischief.

On the whole, anyway.

As a result of a bit of a reshuffle, I am now seated in a different corner of the office. The idea is that it will be a bit quieter here, after it turned out I was far from the only person unhappy about our working environment. However, the reshuffle's not complete, so there are still noisy salespeople on this side, but in a couple of days things should have settled down a bit.

The first phase happened yesterday evening, since the management decreed that it's not to interfere with working hours. They tried to rope me in, but it was far too short notice and one of only two evenings this week I was going to get to spend with Katy properly, so I politely declined. And then declined again when asked by someone else, repeatedly. Eventually they got the hint. But being the conscientious type - and because Katy's at Weybridge today so had an early start - I came in half an hour early this morning. Or at least would have done had I not hit the worst morning traffic for several weeks, and ended up arriving at my normal time. Still, it's the thought that counts, right?

My head's swimming as it is, dunno why; been like this for the last couple of days. This really is not a good time to be getting said head around SOAP - and not for the first time in the last few months. Why oh why oh why oh why (etc) do things like this have to be sprung on me with only about four days' notice? I really should have guessed when things were going so well that spanners were about to be thrown into the works, especially after yesterday's belated request for a MySQL installer and the apparently brokenness of the mainstream version of the software in any case. When all the above doesn't work, it will no doubt turn out to be my fault by some complex chain of events and responsibilities. The sales team are crying out for sticks to beat us with at the moment, and it looks like we've just handed them a really big one on a plate. Oh joy of joys.

Well that's been a pretty much completely spectacular waste of a day.

I wonder how I should record it on our timesheet system, remaining polite?

Just thought I was getting somewhere with this installer, having decided it probably was worth paying the paltry $99 registration fee to activate the more advanced features in the installation system we are using. But as always when things seem to be going well, something happens to prove me wrong. In this case, it's an "error mapping stub file" failure, which comes under the category of "oops, this really shouldn't have happened". And the company is based in Melbourne, so ... oh, it's worked this time. I love intermittent problems!

Hitting rock-bottom again here.

Funnily enough, Slovakian code from the pits of hell is involved.

One day perhaps they will notice that I am only unhappy when that is the case.

Thankfully Richard has told me to drop it and work on something else.

But that wasn't before I had to take emergency breakdown avoidance measures.

Including a doughnut.

And holding my head in my hands for ten minutes.

I have my contract in front of me here, having intended to seal it today.

It's very close to going through the shredder instead.

Damn, six pages.

I guess "five sheets maximum" means my hands won't fit in it either.

The day really hasn't got remotely better, with the only success I can chalk up being having got my webserver thing running on a Linux box rather than Windows, after that little aspect was sprung on me the other day. Half an hour, and it will be time to hit the road, and I really do not intend to hang around for a moment longer than absolutely necessary. Cheered quite a bit though by a phone call from Katy, which made up for my having eaten a couple of pens today. OK, not quite eaten in the sense of digested, but not far off. I'm going insane.

"As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly" - Proverbs 26:11.

Yep, back at work, and goodness knows why. Keeping my cool so far today, but I really don't have very high hopes of lasting the day. For some reason I signed my contract at last yesterday, and got my reference copy back today. I gather that after a certain length of time, a contract is considered to be effective, signed or not, though having something in writing I guess gives me a little bit more security given the likelihood of this operation going down the pan, and I should get a couple of hundred pounds back-pay which will help pay for our trip to Paris last week. But I have absolutely no belief in what I'm doing here, no commitment, no loyalty, no interest; I had some once, but not any more, alas.

Ooh, we actually had somewhere between a minute and two minutes' silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. A little artificial, but it is a relief that amidst all the rather more frivolous minutes' silence we are encouraged to mark, this one is still a little bit special. In a world where war has not stopped for decades, let's be thankful that - regardless of how belligerent our leaders and allies may be - we have relative peace, safety and freedom here, and remember those who delivered it at such great cost.

First things first, it's Friday. This is a very good "first thing", because it means the weekend is almost upon us, and it really can't come soon enough. All is reasonably quiet here - though Simon had to be whisked off to casualty with a broken rib after he slipped and fell in our entrance foyer, the marble floor being treacherous if it's remotely damp outside. Needless to say we expect a lot more accidents as winter sets in, and so far the building management seem somewhat indifferent about the hazard of flooring that's like a skating rink even when it's dry. As for my software, well the prospects of it going live by the end of today look a little remote - and that's even before we've taken the last-minute SOAP functionality into account - but at least that's not my fault. But the main thing is, I'm feeling much better than I did on Wednesday, so far.

Cell group was quite interesting yesterday evening. Katy and I were due to be prayed for - we're trying to get round everyone in the group over the next few weeks - and I had feared that wasn't going to happen, but it did thankfully, and we certainly needed it. The main part of the evening though was taken up with discussing how we might take the group ahead over the coming months, and it was both interesting and challenging for most people there. Nothing's been decided by any means, with a lot more to pray about and brainstorm, but there should be exciting times ahead anyway! One of the things we'd prayed about at the start of the meeting was that I could find my feet a bit more here - I've been feeling especially directionless given the work situation - and this may be just the kind of opportunity I'd been unknowingly waiting for. We'll see...

Good news: I went for a pleasant lunchtime walk and got some lovely fresh air.

Bad news: The office (and the corridor to it) reeked of kebabs when I got back.

Good news: I have a gorgeous wife waiting for my return home this evening.

There is no further bad news.

We've just had belated birthday cake for Caz and Rob. I could feel my arteries clogging with every mouthful. Perhaps I'd better have healthy chicken fajitas for tea this evening. And go easy on the sour cream, needless to say... Oddly, Rob's not actually here today, but they say they're saving him some!

Quite a busy weekend really, with Katy's parents round on Friday evening for those fajitas - just in case they had any fears about our ability to cook even simple things - kicking off a packed programme of events for what was supposed to be a reasonably relaxing time. Saturday activities: fully solving both the cryptic crosswords, wrapping up warm for a good walk at Frensham, and watching the first half of Paris, Texas as given away with the Times - the whole thing, not just the first half of course! Sunday activities: church in the morning, going for lunch with Catherine and Cameron, almost getting chucked out of the restaurant when a nameless member of our party reset their ordering system and left a dozen customers (including us) without pizza, jamming with Chris and Mike at the church centre, munching cheese and biscuits as we watched the final of Scrapheap Challenge, and finally me humbly thrashing Katy at Scrabble.

No wonder we were tired this morning! And I've probably forgotten something...

Actually, I exaggerated about almost getting chucked out of Pizza Piazza. In fact they were really sweet about it all - over and above the call of duty, we'd have to say. And since they are now doing their "pizza and a glass of wine or bottle of beer for a fiver" offer every lunchtime it would seem, it's just as well that they should now welcome us back another time after all...

And our incredible morale-boosting initiative for this week is...

Wait for it!

Patience, readers...

Daily progress meetings, ten minutes before we're supposed to go home, where everyone will report what they have achieved during the day. I really can't say what I think about this while keeping my language polite. However, this kind of thing rarely ever results in better productivity, only wastes perfectly good time and encourages people to lie about what they've been doing so as to "look good" in front of their peers. The only marginal saving grace is that half the sales team won't be sloping off early like the slackers normally do.

One day, they will learn. In the meantime, watch out for porcine aviators.

Turns out these meetings aren't now starting until this afternoon, so at least I got back to my wife in reasonable time yesterday after all. Actually made it in to work in good time this morning, with Katy on one of her Weybridge early starts and empty roads unlike this time last week which was official Traffic From Hell Day for cumulative reasons. I also have a meeting this afternoon to discuss matters of roles and remuneration, which should be interesting. They are contractually obliged to give me a raise if they don't sack me, and given that we were supposed to have had this meeting way back in August it should get backdated. But there's also talk of offering me money over and above that, though I fear it might be offered as a sweetener for some unpleasant work - I suspect that's what was meant by "roles" when this meeting was called - and as readers will be very well aware, I value my sanity more than my bank balance.

But otherwise, today is testing day for my webserver, and I have had the grand total of two fairly tentative volunteers, reflecting the importance with which this is held. Still, that's two fairly tentative volunteers more than I was really expecting, so I should be thankful for small mercies. Of course, there is still a big extra chunk needed to give it SOAP compatibility, and that seems to be turning into an immense can of worms. Hopefully, however, that can be bolted on without breaking any of the existing functionality, and Peter's taken responsibility for coding most of it so I need only worry about integrating it. The whole lot is due for release next Monday now, but even though I have full confidence in Peter's contribution towards it, I'll believe it when I see it. Such is my enthusiasm right now - no, really, when not thwarted by ridiculous politics and so on - I am already pondering the next version, and writing it using Java Servlets, not at all with improvement of my CV in mind of course!

Scratch one tester. That left one, so just as well I was nominally available too. And yay, I've found a bug. Sure, looks like my fault - though I'm not 100% sure for some reason - but that's half the idea of testing, right? Far rather test and find/fix bugs than ship our traditional untested shoddiness.

Something's wrong with our air-conditioning. Even the building manager bloke was concerned and phoning his engineer very urgently when he called up here a few minutes ago. Apparently we're up to 80 degrees already and rising fast, and there are no openable windows - at least to be able to close them again...

Phew, the air-con's been fixed. Though if anything it's getting a bit chilly in here now, and I'm mightily glad I brought my fleece jumper after all...

Well I had my meeting yesterday afternoon, and it was indeed interesting. And, much to my surprise, we both emerged with what we wanted, basically. That's to say, both happy. I don't talk money in here, but although my pay-rise wasn't backdated, we came to an alternative and amicable arrangement that's easier to administer in any case. Still some awkward politics and atmosphere, and there will be more meetings to come - but as I said to Piran, despite the odd blip like last week, I feel as committed now as I really can be, however committed that might be. And that's really the most that anyone could ask for, I reckon.

All is quiet here at work, still feeling a little like the eye of the storm, but for the time being all appears to be reasonably well. Just pressing on with fixing the seven most urgent issues I drew out of the testing the other day, and no big problems yet found in doing so. I really don't know what the company's going to look like over any time-scale - from hours to months - but for the moment I am simply determined to do my best here and enjoy trying. It won't always be easy, but that's life, and things could be a whole lot worse.

I'm just overhearing a meeting where one of my colleagues is briefing one the directors on what he thinks I am going to be working on next. Not that we have discussed this at all, but believe you me, he is so very, very wrong. If I am pushed into doing what is being discussed, Tuesday's agreement will be toast.

In better news, Katy's sorted out hotel accommodation for our planned Christmas shopping expedition to Milton Keynes. Sounds a bit extravagant, but it's only really costing us a couple of pounds, thanks to BMI loyalty points earned when Katy was travelling for business. And we get to see lots of friends, hopefully!

Twiddling my thumbs waiting for my webserver software to upload to the shiny new machine allocated for it. Trouble is, unlike our development box, this one's on our old premises, with an RFC 1149 connection. So, unsurprisingly, it's taking ages. And apparently the pigeons aren't going to be upgraded, because it's not going to be worth replacing them for the length of time we still have the lease on the old premises. So, a couple more months of this I guess - and then the fun of moving the remote machines and no doubt fighting with BT, NTL or whoever to get the lines properly transferred. Seamlessly.

In other news this morning, Peter's just been pulled off working on some XML stuff that was going to interface with my webserver, and that was the basis of a couple of ten-grand deals. So they're shafted, and were about the only hope this company had of turning around its fortunes. Welcome aboard, Peter!

Mmm, toast.

Now sitting waiting for my webserver sessions to time out, to test a bug fix. Would of course have helped the first time if the timeout really had been set to one minute rather than twenty. Should come round quicker this time...

Almost the weekend - and Katy and I both need this one reasonably desperately. Not that it's been a terrible week by any means, but still pretty tiring.

Ah, one of the two sessions timed out, and the session manager thread crashed. So no more sessions will ever be timed out. This needs to be resolved.

Monday morning. Richard's taunting us with fresh toast, but it's not far off lunchtime and Peter's been giving out the odd jaffa cake so we should cope.

Been a quiet weekend - possibly one of the last before Christmas at this rate - with our sole bit of sociability being going out for pizza with some of the guys after church. No-one to fiddle with the touch-screen till this time, so our food arrived reasonably swiftly. I wonder how Daniel will fare when we go back again next weekend? Other highlights included getting nice bread from the baker when our brunch plans on Saturday morning fell foul of a dud batch of yeast, making a couple of cool dragons that even the Mona Lisa would have been freaked out by, and watching Spider-man on budget DVD from the corner shop.

As for work matters, we should be going live with my webserver today, but Gary has requested some last minute changes to the way it routes, given our rather easily-overloaded ADSL connections, so I'll believe it when I see it. Oh, and Carly wants user-guides, Richard wants installation procedures and automatic setup scripts, etc... I just want to see the darned thing working, basically!

And now my login to the server this stuff is hosted on has stopped working, and we're really not sure why. As always seems to be the way, do things at the last minute and there will always be problems. Rather like at church yesterday morning, when there were problems getting a presentation up and running on a laptop, eventually diagnosed as being down to a grubby CD-RW disc. I couldn't help thinking a little forward planning might have saved a few red faces as the meeting started ever later and later... Not that it mattered, since it was an informal meeting, mainly concerned with collecting all our Operation Christmas Child shoe-boxes of course; we seem to have got about thirty boxes by the looks of things which is really pretty impressive. Anyway, lunch time now - hooray!

Server still broken, but I have been given a back-door to get into it anyway. And have ascertained that the reason my webserver is no longer returning any results is at least partially my fault. See, I never claimed I was perfect.

Exactly what level of bluntness is it going to take to persuade these people that not being able to FTP or SCP into my server box really isn't going to expedite the deployment of the latest version of the system? It really doesn't matter at this point exactly what traffic goes via which ADSL line, so long as the flipping thing works. Yes, in the long term, it'll be an issue as more and more users get on board and bandwidth gets contended, but not right now. Unlike getting being able to get the sodding thing working at all, which I am comprehensively being prevented from doing - and for which I will no doubt take the rap when the customers start grumbling about missed delivery dates.

Finally, the point seems to have sunk home. The discussion went something like:

"What ports does your server use to chat to the outside world?"
"Just port 80, unless any job boards do anything weird."
"Oh, just wondering why it's not returning any results."
"That'll be because it's a jiggered version, and until I can SCP into the box like I've been requesting for the last two hours, I can't fix it."
"Oh, I thought you were going on about something else..."

It apparently took about thirty seconds to sort out the SCP problem.

Shame our carrier pigeons have gone on strike though.

Our networking has gone so slow that by the time I actually managed to get a connection to the deployment server to check something, I'd forgotten what it was I was going to check. With Gary deciding that we need to do more testing on the webserver - testing which I argued I wanted done last week, but with only two volunteers we weren't going to be able to give it a good run for its money - it's perhaps just as well that apparently the customer is being put off for a few days. Not that they told me that earlier of course, and not that we couldn't have delivered on time. But I guess we don't want to get a reputation for timely delivery, expectation management and all that. Gah, and there's still incessant beeping from the Slovakian contractors faffing around with the wireless alarm system that's giving me even more of a headache than I already had - I thought they'd finished weeks ago, but evidently not. Do I love this place still? I really don't know. "Confused as hell" is my middle name.

Everything's gone wrong now.

Have to say, the prognosis really doesn't look very good at this point.

Needless to say, if there had actually a bit more interest in last week's testing, we might have tracked down these problems while there was plenty of time to do something about them. Of course, I don't know exactly how long we've managed to persuade the customer to wait, but there must be a limit, and right now I really haven't got a clue what to do to make things any better.

Actually - and I'm not being remotely sarcastic here - I do, but it's really not going to be something I can do at the drop of a hat, and I'm not even 100% sure that's going to help, having looked at the code that might save the day, and realised it looks fundamentally even less likely to work than mine is...

Just want to go home and be with my wife - i.e. basically be anywhere but here.

Excuse me while I sigh.

I lied yesterday. Everything hadn't gone wrong. Not then. It has now.

Let me remind you, this software was originally going to be released yesterday, and was quietly rescheduled for release tomorrow. Only today has there been anything like any interest in thoroughly testing it under realistic user load. At this point I just wish I could pack up, walk out of the door and vanish into the mist. I know it's not my fault these problems have emerged at this time - even if it is technically my fault they exist in the first place - but when the company so thoroughly despises timely testing of the software they sell at two grand a pop, I'm not sure if my protestations are going to fall on remotely understanding ears. I love my work, but I'm so clearly in the wrong company.

On a happier note, Katy and I went along to the annual FCCT review last night, hearing lots about what the trust is doing in Farnham. Everything from school assemblies to pies and pints for the over-60s - and there was plenty of food and drink for everyone to enjoy yesterday too! An interesting thing to reflect on from one of last night's talks is that most of what churchgoers do - even when notionally partnering up with people from other churches - is networking. That is to say, finding like-minded people to help reinforce what is already the case. The second "C" in FCCT really is working as a community rather than a network, recognising that everyone is different, that those differences are there to be explored and built upon, and that everyone has something to bring - a community cannot exist except as a multi-function body, exactly what Christ wants his Church, as a global people, to be. Well, it's a start, anyway!

It's doner kebab gross-out day.

Really made my fresh air at lunch time well worth it.

Two hour journey into work this morning, after a fatal smash on the A3 in the small hours of the morning left the road closed both ways until only a short while ago. A car had gone north on the southbound carriageway and got mashed by an HGV which then careered across the central reservation. I pondered finding a back-route in, but figured I'd get lost and in any case the traffic announcements insisted there was chaos everywhere, so I gritted my teeth and stayed on the A3. And was still the first in the tech team to make it in...

Had a good evening out yesterday, belatedly celebrating Chris's birthday at the Balti Hut. They're offering a midweek deal not entirely different from that at the Gulshan, apart from being a couple of quid cheaper. The quantities of food were actually a bit more manageable, and no-one went hungry! Pretty tired by the end of the evening, so although we'd been healthy and walked down, we were grateful for a lift home with Mike and Gemma. Quiet night in tonight, though!

Back to roasting in our own juices here. Down to shirt sleeves, and suspecting I might end up topless by the end of the day. What a scary prospect? Though at the rate I'm going, the end of the day will be something I don't make it to, and not because of the temperature, but stupid sales-people doing my head in.

Beginning to wonder if this whole operation is one big frog-boiling exercise.

Both literally and figuratively.

Going to be cooked by the end of the day whichever way I look at it.

Damn, was I asking for that...

After the praise received for my documentation of the testing done the other day on my webserver thing, and volunteering to help with version 3 of the main software - which I openly admitted was only to feed my well-known hatred of it - I have been hand picked to spearhead the belated testing of version 3, and been dumped with a ream of over-officious document templates to populate. I seem to have become test manager, in charge of testing a product with which I have next to no familiarity, only loathing. I really haven't got a clue what I am doing - and nor does Rob, who I'm working with to some extent - so I feel like I'm driving along with my windscreen all frosted up. Blind, dangerous and running late. Sounds like something off a road safety awareness advertisement.

A few weeks ago I applied for a job via an agency. The recruiter called me back and although it turned out the job wasn't really suitable, we had a useful chat to discuss my skills, how far I could commute, and so on. Consequently I suppose it's no surprise that today I got an email from one of his colleagues, giving details of a job requiring three years commercial C++ experience and based in Milton Keynes. Recruiters are remarkably stupid folk, aren't they? Though how stupid are they when they get paid what they do? Perhaps they do get the last laugh, even if it is typically work with a pretty short half-life.

And if it's the same idiot recruiter who's been trying to phone my mobile from a withheld number for half the afternoon, cease and desist, please. If it's someone else and it's important, terribly sorry; please leave an appropriate message on the voice-mail, that's what it's there for you know. Thank you.

Sorry, I am in an immensely foul and sarky mood today. Hopefully nothing a bit of pizza and garlic bread can't sort out, in the company of my good and loyally suffering wife. But nothing's yet happened today - other than a handful of nice emails from aforementioned wife - to make me feel remotely cheerful or upbeat.

Time to head home imminently, but I expect we've got a progress meeting first.

Pointless though it may be on a day like today...

Two nice quiet evenings in on the trot - well, apart from going shopping on Wednesday night, but even that is a pleasure these days, especially when there are profiteroles involved - and very much needed. No cell group meeting last night, because of the curry out on Tuesday, and although there had been talk of watching a DVD or something as an unofficial activity - not that we were really planning on going - that didn't happen due to unforeseens. Same unforeseens that mean we're probably in this evening too, alas - just one of those things, and the health of our friends is way more important than our recreation. And besides, all being well we're being sociable tomorrow, so we will surely cope!

Busy Friday, and I feel quite grim by the end of it, but it's been a productive day on the whole, even if with a few completely avoidable annoyances along the way. We did some more load testing on my webserver thing, and by all accounts it stood up well, with only a couple of largely cosmetic issues raised. In trying to fix one bug on the main version of the software, I found another bug that I really couldn't believe no-one had spotted before, and fixed it. That prompted the main annoyance of the day though, when our Slovakian contractor moaned about me "breaking the code", when I'd actually resolved a problem. I explained the situation, and he still went and changed it back, as well as some changes Richard had done, wasting a couple of hours of our work all told. But all seems to be OK now, and we're probably about ready to release that software as well. Not that I consider launching both at the same time to be a remotely clever idea since it allows little escape route if things do go wrong - and I am sure they will - but that's yet another thing they might learn sometime.

Hectic Monday morning but I can justify taking a breather for a few minutes, having got three key tasks completed. After all, those who wish to fill their lungs with carcinogenic fumes are allowed time out - though I like to think it's to compensate themselves a little for their reduced life expectancy, so they don't really get any extra recreation time when all is said and done.

It's been a busy yet strangely quite chilled weekend, with the high points including a visit from Rachel, Mark and Daniel on Saturday - including a trip to our increasingly common lunchtime haunt of Pizza Piazza - and having Mike and Gemma round after church on Sunday to help us munch the food we'd planned for Friday evening until last week's little medical emergency scuppered things.

Most annoying thing was spending about three hours yesterday afternoon and evening sorting out email sending problems on our PC, eventually tracked down to our ISP doing evil things by way of hijacking SMTP connections. It was made worse by the facts that I had just installed new anti-virus software and that our PC is generally rather dying at the moment, so diagnosis was quite complex.

But anyway, back at work, and I have been setting up servers for three of our customers, and as far as I can tell everything is working fine. One of them is scheduled to be tried out at midday, so I guess I'd better get braced for a phone call from Simon and Piran - if only to confirm the activation password!

Oh, and we sorted out Katy's birthday present from my mum, finally. Mum had posted her a book she thought she would like, but somewhere along the line the Royal Mail managed to lose it. In fairness, they were very quick in paying Mum compensation, though they claimed they were "making an exception" for the fact that she had no proof of postage - but given that we have to trust them not to lose our mail, I guess they have little choice but to trust our honesty too. However, Mum was naturally wary of posting a replacement, so I said we would try and get the book locally on her behalf, which we did while in town with Rachel and family on Saturday afternoon. Thankfully Katy likes the look of it!

Excellent, Simon's just come back from visiting a customer having installed and demonstrated my webserver, with both thumbs up and generally using words like "success". Should add ammunition to my plans to make the next version of the webserver our primary product, and kiss good riddance to the hideously clunky and generally troublesome junk we've been peddling for the last six months.

Annoying though that our development server is clearly somehow different to the deployment one. I had to put up with that kind of insanity at the OU, but it's little better here. The same Linux commands have different effects, and whilst running Java on the deployment box neatly works on a one-instance-one-process basis, on the development box, each Java instance spawns thirteen processes...

Writing retrospective test plans really is such tremendous fun, believe you me!

What, exactly, is the point in being seen to be doing things "properly", if they're not, actually? Is it just to allay the fears of customers when the software goes wrong and they start asking difficult questions about the rigour of the testing done before they were persuaded to blow their couple of grand?

The test plan I am labouring over at the moment is two generations of testing out of date now. The issues raised have long since been addressed. But it still has to be documented, and I have to write it as if it's not happened yet.

Oh, noting that the skies were reasonably clear, Katy and I did a little back garden astronomy last night. OK, so by the time we were set up it was misting over a little, but Katy liked the Moon and the Pleiades, which were perhaps not at their best given the conditions, but not bad either. We didn't completely dismantle the kit when the cold got the better of us after about an hour, so hopefully we might get some more opportunities in the near future. Apart from anything else, I need to refamiliarise myself with right ascensions and setting circles, because it makes searching for more interesting objects somewhat hit and miss otherwise! Though I'm pretty sure M31 would have blended seamlessly into last night's mist anyway, so I don't think my incompetence was to blame...

Can I just add, by the way, it was Katy's idea to give it a try! Yay Katy!

They say that it's really not a good idea for the authors of software to be involved with testing it. I can see why now, and it's got absolutely nothing to do with impartiality, fresh thinking etc. You'd never get any time to write the darned stuff in the first place. Thorough testing eats both time and soul.

And even more so when you have to document it after the event, but you know that very well already so I won't labour that particular point any further.

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