David's diary: September 2004
I'm working on the basis that today can only get better. Started off with the tail end of a crisis that broke yesterday afternoon when we uploaded the latest version of our software on to the auto-update server. Everything worked fine for Rob and me, but it failed for the sales team upstairs and - we suspect - for a number of customers, leaving the software in an indeterminate state that almost certainly wasn't correctable without downloading a full clean version from the web. After a mad rush this morning - the kind of mad rush that tends to result in these kinds of problem in the first place, I'd add - everything seems to be back to some semblance of normality, though I am still confused as to what exactly went wrong in the first place. I suspect it was a combination of a number of issues, some technical, some not really - such as our Slovakian friend not telling us we needed to include a new library file - that all came to a head given that yesterday's release was the first in a couple of weeks. But at least it seems to be working now, though being hassled with ignorant questions - basically assuming that because this had gone wrong, it was also responsible for any number of other utterly unconnected problems, from the "unattended mode" failing, to the rise of fanatical religious extremism - didn't help get today off to the best of starts. But it can only get better.
Yesterday did get much better, thankfully, being able to engross myself at work with rewriting some of the only remaining code dating from when I first joined, and of course doing a much better job of it - with the benefit of a combination of hindsight and actually being committed to what I was doing, unlike the guy before who only did it to pay for his wedding. Got even better in the evening, with Tim and Wes coming round for dinner, there being no cell group as such, due to the others still being away in Devon of course. Plenty of food, plenty of beer and wine and plenty of game-playing and music-listening. Not too late a finish though, but Katy's taken today off having worked a full day yesterday with a training course. Oh, and it's my last day at this particular hell-hole.
Vaguely amused to see in the news this morning that BNFL are being hauled up by the European Union for obstructing inspections at the Sellafield nuclear plant, to ensure that nuclear materials are not illegally diverted from civilian to military use. If Sellafield were in the Middle East - not including Israel, obviously, because they don't have a military nuclear programme of course - the plant would surely have been on the receiving end of a squadron of stealth bombers by now. Remember: in this brave new world, do as we say, not as we do.
Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day! Last day!
In this particular scummy backwater of Guildford, that is... Good riddance.
That's about half the problem solved, anyway.
In the midst of chaos here at the moment, unsurprisingly. Not long to go...
So... New offices, and they've certainly been impressively transformed since a handful of us paid a visit a few weeks ago. You might almost believe we'd been here a while already, were it not for the tell-tale packing crates still lying around the place. Anyway, this seems to be much more appropriate accommodation for a company trying to sell itself - as I understand is the case - and I am sure once we have agreed a few protocols about things like mobile ringtones it will become quite a pleasant environment, especially given such unaccustomed luxuries as daylight and air-conditioning. The only hiccup so far apart from a few connectivity issues is that the lift has broken - indeed it did so at just the wrong time for the guys doing the moving at the weekend - which means Rob's been given at least the morning off since he won't have a chance of getting in.
It's been a pretty busy weekend, but a fulfilling one. Saturday we did quite a bit of "nice shopping" and tried out one of the Cook vouchers we'd had since the wedding, and Sunday was more or less fully occupied with the combination of church in the morning, a church picnic lunch at Waverley Abbey and a birthday tea for Katy's dad and grandma at Katy's parents' house. Church was busy, as the first meeting since before the summer with more than a nominal attendance, and it seemed that most people who were there made it to the picnic afterwards, which included not-too-strenuous fun and games and an opportunity for to try out our plush new picnic blanket bought on Saturday - also courtesy of wedding gift vouchers! My in-laws and nephew visited from for the birthday tea - first time we'd seen them since the wedding - but as usual were not keen to stay very late, so once they'd gone and we'd looked at a couple of things on the computer we dropped Katy's grandma back at her flat and headed back home, leaving just enough time to finish the wine that we'd enjoyed with Saturday's coq-au-vin...
Hmm, it gets very noisy here periodically. Goes in waves - I guess as people speak up in order to be heard over all the other people speaking up... Studies have shown that open-plan office accommodation is not appropriate for software development, but - given what was in the offing at the Open University before I finally made my escape - it's the way the industry is foolishly lurching, so it's not going to be remotely easy to find somewhere that hasn't gone that way.
The honeymoon is over; this new office is now officially doing my head in - after a mere day and a half. So much for the request for consideration to be shown; I simply cannot concentrate for the sheer background noise of completely work-unrelated gossip. The very few objective studies carried out - most "studies" are commissioned by the very people who maintain that open-plan working is the answer to life, the universe and everything - have shown that programmer productivity is typically hit by up to 80 percent by working in this kind of environment, and I can certainly appreciate that now. I'm trying to get my head round some Slovakian code from hell and simply haven't got a chance right now with the utter nonsense being rabbited about from all directions. The only way I can block it out is by sticking my fingers in my ears, and oddly enough that doesn't do a great deal for my typing ability. The management seem not to give a damn, so I assume they won't be bothered if I don't do any work.
Wednesday, and after a quiet start, the volume is rising... Will be lunchtime fairly soon though, so can get out for a little while, and perhaps maintain my sanity for a bit longer this afternoon. One slight improvement, so to speak, is that our working hours now start at nine o'clock, a quarter of an hour later than previously, so I am able to leave home a little later - though of course the traffic is potentially slightly heavier. The downside is that our early finish Friday evenings is now officially no more, so we keep pretty much the same working hours overall. If I've not been institutionalised by that point, that may be prove to be an issue, but it's a couple of days off yet, so plenty of time yet to go insane and let the nice men come to take me away, ha-ha.
Bah, I'm stuck. 20 errors - all down to three fragments of code I shudder to even contemplate rewriting. And in this unusual case, I think two of those might be my own code - but I can't be sure, such is my selective memory...
It's Friday lunchtime, and I'd like to say that brings me half way through the day - but it doesn't, since we now work full-length hours on Fridays. I'm not sure it will be a fair price to pay for starting a quarter of an hour later each morning, but at least I've not been finding the traffic in the mornings as bad as I'd feared - though I have no idea what time I'll get home tonight.
So our first week at the new office comes to a close. On the bright side, we are no longer in our scummy Guildford premises with our violent neighbours, and have - for the time being at least - ample parking for all, and we have this wonderful stuff streaming in through the windows - even on a gloomy day like today - called natural light. On the flipside, it is of course open plan, with all the disadvantages that means, and the best-case commute is slower than to and from the old place - though the worst-case one should be a little quicker.
I've been having a quick look at the version 3 of our software, currently being written by one of our Slovakian team, and surprise surprise I couldn't see any improvements over version 2. It's supposed to be either new or heavily revised code throughout, but the user-interface at least has all the old bugs. Oh well! It's only about four months now since I offered to completely rewrite the whole system, and two or three months since I would have had something superior and sellable to show for it, but that's their problem, not mine. Crazy fools.
Summer seems to have ended today, as the weather forecasters predicted. So I'm not going to go for a repeat of yesterday's reasonably pleasant traipse across the fields, funnily enough - though I have got my walking boots in the back of the car if I get desperate! A few rumbles of thunder around, but nothing too exciting - and I suspect these offices are pretty well soundproofed anyway.
On a different note, Caz popped over a little while ago, having received a form from our new bank requesting my salary be paid into it. That is exactly as we had hoped would happen - albeit a little earlier - except that the form Caz got was one page of the physical form we signed, and has insufficient information. So I'm going to have to give her the details myself anyway. How useless! The banks are very keen to promote their services for transferring payments and so on, but in practice they have proven to be absolutely dire and ineffectual.
Back at work after quite a good weekend, but I want to be at home really - I'm feeling quite fragile, and am getting nowhere with the nasty encryption stuff I am trying again to fathom out having swept it under the carpet for a while.
Friday evening - funnily enough - we went to our second Acoustic Fridays event, having missed last month's one, though we mainly go to support our friend Mike who had also organised this one while the regular organiser is off on holiday. Mind you, the average quality of the acts was vastly better than the first time we went - Mike was simply one of a good bunch this time rather than head and shoulders above the rest - so we might yet decide to go along more often...
Our lie-in on Saturday never really happened, so instead we got our shopping in while the day was but young, and made the most of the fair weather by getting out for a walk in Alice Holt Forest in the afternoon. Sunday's highlight was persuading Tim and Sam - not my old colleagues! - to join us for lunch at Pizza Piazza, though it was generally a really good day and rounded up the weekend well. Just a shame about such a gloomy morning to kick off the new week.
And to add to the doom and gloom today, our ISP has apparently died. Again.
Our ISP claims that the fault has been fixed and that they intend to install better - and independent from BT - backup routing, but that was resolved in the wee small hours of the morning, so no chance to try it out yet. Though given how poorly I slept, testing that might have been a more productive activity. Thankfully I did manage a bit of quality sleep in between many short patches of very light dozing, so I'm not completely wiped out this morning, and should have enough energy to last out the day so long as I don't have too many crises!
After tea yesterday evening we popped round to see my new in-laws, staying at Katy's parents' house for a few days. I know we'd only seen them a couple of weekends ago, but it was nice to be able to spend some time with them properly, and to catch up on the latest developments with my nephew's new nursery - after his old one closed down giving only a month's notice. Once Daniel had more or less gone to bed, we cracked open a handful of beers and Mark gave the rest of us permission to play Scrabble while he plied us with his latest CD purchases.
Oh today is just annoying me and can't finish soon enough - though with another three hours to go, it really can't. Silly conversations like sales girl saying a non-specific "help!" with regard to our software not working as expected, me suggesting she persuades the customer to download the latest version from the well-publicised address she's used a dozen times before, and the reply coming back, "what download?" It's enough to make me weep. Of course, everyone's life would be made so much easier if we were selling a robust product, but as I surely said before, the "brand new and completely rewritten" version 3 has all the bugs that have been in the software since day one, so that is simply never ever going to happen under the current development philosophy, and the sooner the powers that be realise that, the better. Instead they want more and more features without allowing any time for robustness, then wonder why it breaks so often. Forget weeping, it's time to go "AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHH!"
My software has just gained Knight Rider lights! Plural. In fact, no less than fourteen of them, all whizzing from side to side in perfect harmony... Well, almost perfect harmony; they're ever so slightly out of step, leading us to daydream about adding a gambling easter-egg, where users could bet on which Knight Rider light would be fastest. Of course, all just a distraction from annoyances like hassles over Christmas leave, with certain people having put their requests in already and insisting that means others can't. Needless to say if I can't get the time off I want, I'll just make sure I've gone by then. If they really believe the rest of the recruitment world is going to be doing enough that involves us during the run-up to Christmas to justify anything more than the most skeletal of staffing, they have no hope. I can only hope they were joking, but I've not heard anything to support that wishful hypothesis.
This could be the final straw. Just got an email from one of our sales team basically demanding two major new bits of functionality to our software - by 12 noon tomorrow. That's about three hours to design, build and test. Apparently a £48000 deal could be resting on this. So no pressure then. I told them I would do it if they cut me in for 10 percent. Oddly enough they declined. I was banking on that, because it's simply not possible to programme like that, especially when half the supporting information provided was erroneous anyway!
And I predict that tomorrow morning they will ask how I'm getting on with it...
I predict that my reply will be "I'm not", whereupon the walls will turn brown.
That particular crisis averted, for the moment. It turned out that the extra bit of functionality that had the dud supporting information wasn't required after all, due to the customer not really having a clue what they were asking for. The other part was more or less as simple as I'd hoped, by virtue of being essentially the same as "one I'd made earlier" in true Blue Peter style. Consequently I managed to get everything actually needed by the customer up and running before lunchtime, though of course testing time has been negligible and I still managed to cock up the live deployment for a few minutes, as I normally do when asked to rush things. I might not get my five grand, but at least I won't be totally despised by the sales team for helping them lose their bonus.
Today's actually not been so bad overall. This afternoon I've written most of another portal, and fielded the odd technical query from the sales team. The last one of those was a problem with launching Word, which was one I hoped had gone away but clearly hadn't. It's amazing sometimes how few people seem to be actually using the software once they've shelled out over a grand for it, but otherwise these issues would be getting reported several times a day! Or does the recruitment industry really care so little about "piffling" sums of money like that, that they are prepared to buy software then never actually use it?
In other news, about half a dozen security cameras are being set up in the office, without any management explanation. The definition is insufficient to see what we're doing on-screen, but nonetheless the suspicion is that they are doing it essentially to spy on us. After all, if they just wanted to catch burglars, one above the entrance would do the trick surely? It is pretty well known that they plan to monitor all our email and instant messaging, for fear that commercial secrets may be being shared and coups being plotted, so this certainly seems like a situation where innocence needs to be proven urgently.
We've just been assured that the spy cameras are for security purposes only. I was sure that was the case really, but it did need to be formally acknowledged.
In other news, I've got next Thursday afternoon off! Not the most amazing and exciting of news, I realise, but it could just be the development I badly need - and that really will be news if it comes to anything, as I hope it might...
Reasonable day, as they go, though CVS was having one of its frequent hissy fits a little while ago, pretending to eat literally half our project, though it regurgitated it later which only needed a little mopping up to rectify. Put my feet up for a little while at lunchtime with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time; it would have been nice to find a park bench in the sun to do so on, but I was assured the nearest was about a mile away. Still, nice to get away from the terminal for half an hour, even if I was still indoors, alas. Good book though, extremely compelling in its decidedly unusual writing style.
I'm sure the people who created this rail industry recruitment website are jolly good train drivers, but they sure as heck can't create a decent website. Four search text fields, only one of them labelled, and a "help" button that links to an error page. Give people like Jobsite credit; their sites may be plug ugly, but at least they are usable and don't give me excessive grief.
P.S. I'm not applying to be a train driver, signal-man or station-master; I'm just doing my job - though it is a small perk of working in "meta-recruitment" that I can easily look at job websites without arousing too much suspicion!
It's getting even worse now. In order to investigate some of the subtleties of its operation, I needed to register. So I did - making sure I sold myself badly enough that I couldn't possibly actually be wanted by anyone, of course! But now I want to edit some of my details, as it says I can. But can I? Can I heck. Not even an option linked to an error page for that one. Just nothing. How completely and utterly useless. This was going to be a dead easy, quick win bit of programming, but it's turning out to be a hugely complicated mess, and I've only just started really. For once, this company isn't to blame - other than for promising customers undeliverables - but that's cold comfort...
But less than an hour now until I can head home for the weekend, and a weekend when we really don't have too much lined up right now. We need to visit our local SEAT dealer to discuss servicing with them, and have a lunch appointment for Sunday, but apart from that the weekend is ours, all ours. And by this time next week, who knows, I may well be working out my week's notice... Not getting too hopeful about the latter, but I can't always be a pessimist!
Oh, and tonight's tea quacks. Or used to, anyway. That'll make today worth it!
Because it's Friday afternoon and the directors aren't here, it seems to be "anything goes" for general tomfoolery. Now whilst it was quite amusing when Alice apparently got yet another bunch of flowers, when they had actually been swiped from the reception desk downstairs, the continual background noise of inane music on tinny speakers is beginning to get to me. The sales team even went as far as sending out an email asking for requests. I bet they don't have John Cage's 4'33" in their mp3 collection, because that would be just splendid.
But only half an hour to go...
Today promises to be quiet. Looks like half the sales team have done a bunk or are out visiting customers, Rob's ill, Josh is at the dentist and Richard is definitely out visiting a customer - as a result of which I expect at least one panicked phone call within the next hour or so. But given that I was barely able to drag myself out of bed this morning, not helped by Katy having taken today off, perhaps the peace and quiet will be just what I need right now.
The weekend has been pretty good, even if we were both lacking in energy for much of the time. Friday we celebrated our three-month "anniversary", and again on Sunday - yes, it's three months since our civil and proper weddings, respectively! We're due our "three-month service" with Geg and Michael, and have booked that in for next week, as indeed we booked my car in for its first annual service since it's now just passed the dreaded 10,000 mile mark. Friday we had duck, just in case you didn't quack the "riddle", and Sunday we spent much of the day with our friends Simon and June. Time to ourselves is good, but it's also very important for us to be able to share our happiness also!
Anyway, better press on with this wretched rail job-site portal; I found that at least some of the problem with their website was that it only partially works with Firefox - possibly the most standards compliant browser there is - which I suppose is no surprise given that it was clearly written by a signal man in his lunchbreak. But a portal's needed, nonetheless, so ever onwards...
Just had that phone call from Richard, though not as panicked as I might have expected. Everything's going quietly pear-shaped this morning, what with that, and Jobserve's major changes over the weekend having stuffed up big-time, with obvious knock-on effect on hundreds of our customers. But I have to say I am quietly unconcerned by it all, since it's nothing I hadn't anticipated.
Having finished The Curious Incident - and decided Christopher did a far better job of answering his maths question than I ever could have - I've just started reading Adrian Plass's Sacred Diaries trilogy, which we picked up for 50p at a charity shop recently. Making a far more interesting read so far than this dull diary, but on the other hand his is all made up - even if inspired by real life. Perhaps I should make up some stories in here to juice things up a bit?
I go for a walk, because rail job websites are doing my head in. It pees down with rain. I come back and decide to update some issues on our bug-tracking system. It locks solid when I try to update bugs. Is this going to become one of those days? Should I just give up now while I still have my sanity?
One of our colleagues gas gone AWOL. He apparently phoned in because he had a dental appointment this morning, but it's now half way through the afternoon and there's no sign of him. Although the management are getting a bit stressed over it, I get a sense that the general feeling would be "good on you mate" if he really has done a runner as most of us quietly suspect. He's paid peanuts for doing the jobs no-one else wants to touch - and given some of the dross I get to do, that's saying something! - and gets verbally abused if he slacks even momentarily. Oh, and he's been here a year and still has no contract. The company will fall apart in his absence, but then I plan to join him a.s.a.p.
We've got an important business meeting in a quarter of an hour with a visiting company we would like to build a strategic relationship with, which could help secure tens of thousands of pounds worth of business. That being the case, the lack of anyone else here giving much of a damn about it is somewhat disturbing.
Well the meeting's happened, and it went rather better than the preparatory signs would have predicted. We didn't get quite what I'd hoped for out of it, but it was hardly a surprise that they had their agendas too, and they were the better businessmen ultimately. So we have a nascent partnership, and I seem to have been tasked with agreeing with one of their technical guys the exact way our respective software packages will talk with each other. I couldn't help thinking back to Catherine's talk on Sunday morning, when she gave us a potted overview of Jim Collins' theories about management styles, but let's not go into that right now, especially who are the Level Fours and Fives round here...
Yesterday's AWOL colleague is back, and there seems to be little fuss. Richard had worked out he was definitely coming back; he'd left his Leatherman here.
Josh is into voodoo network diagram drawing. Just as he removed the "cloud" denoting the VPN from his Visio chart, guess what happened? Suffice to say, I might as well carry on babbling here for a little while longer, because the net's not going to be back on-line any time too soon, I very much doubt. And until it is back on-line, although I can write code, I can't test it, and I'm very much at a "suck it and see" stage with what I'm currently working on.
Specifically, I'm still fighting with this wretched rail job website. I need to translate from our own insane but at least reasonably flexible search syntax into the job website's only marginally less insane but definitely much less flexible syntax - and of course have no control over either. I've had a few pointers from various people, but I'm still really not remotely the wiser. I'm sure it's got something to do with O-level algebra and factorisation, but that seems such a long time ago and my mind has been numbed far too much in between.
No, on further playing, it appears to be exactly the opposite to all that...
Oh I just so hope this interview I've got tomorrow afternoon goes well. I've been in touch with a friend of mine who I thought might know something about the company in question, and he does. It sounds like they're likely to be a good bunch, though he expressed a bit of caution about their industry, which suggests some constructive questions for me to pose them if we get that far. If nothing else, I get to have lunch out and spend much of the afternoon with my wife, so one way or another I'll be making the most of my time off work!
Getting on for an hour later, there's still no internet access - even to the servers still at our Guildford office, which include the main one I use - so there's still no way of testing my software, and I've done my preparation for tomorrow evening's bible study Katy's running. All of which really does leave me twiddling my thumbs idly, wondering just why I bothered coming in. All I can say is that I'm mighty glad yesterday's technical crises with our software happened when they did, because we would be powerless to do anything about them if they happened now, and we would look really stupid to our customers. The guy I contacted earlier about the company I've got the interview with said he's having major connectivity problems at the moment, and I commented how even a minor outage was a big problem to me - and now look what's happening! It's only when you lose something like internet connectivity that you realise just how much you depend upon it for even basic things. At least when we had the power-cut back at my parents' house a few months ago we could get the gas lamp out and carry on playing Scrabble, but the net's an all or nothing thing...
Now it's getting cold in here. I wonder if the internet has really died, or if it's the Building Management System gone mad, like it did in Resident Evil and one of the rather more ridiculous episodes of The X-Files. Are we all about to freeze to death without even the ability to send out an email to warn anyone?
Put my fleece on; Steve assumed I was going. I expect the security codes will all have stopped working by now so I'll never get out of the building anyway...
Talking of emails, I got three amazing ones earlier. I've won the lottery, in fact three times. Talk about lucky - one win would have been incredible, but three times in one day was something really special, for a total of one and a half million euros. I'm feeling so lucky I think this should be the ideal day to try some really dangerous stunt - like jumping off a bridge - knowing I would walk away with only cuts and bruises. Unfortunately for me, the emails said that breaking confidentiality would disqualify me, so damn and blast.
My wedding ring spins really efficiently.
Going to move on to trying it at different starting angles.
Another hour passes.
Thorin gets bored with singing about gold.
Our bug-tracking system has just re-appeared. Nothing else has though. At least we could in theory formally report the internet link being down now... Though given that the problems with it the other day were due to it not being able to send emails - inexplicably jamming the entire system - and that email still appears to be defiantly down, perhaps I'm being slightly over-hopeful.
Richard and Jez definitely got the pick of the day's activities with their trip to Bolton. I think I'd rather be stuck on the motorway than in here right now.
Now even the bug-tracking system has died again...
Actually it's going up and down like a yo-yo, which at least suggests someone's looking at it. Though like when power-cuts are resolved, when the electricity first comes back on is not usually the best prompt to re-set the video clock.
Gary and Josh have just come back, believing everything to be fixed.
It's not, as they have just grudgingly acknowledged, and they now seem to be focussing their attention on the firewall.
It now has to be said it's looking quite unlikely this will be resolved before it's time to head off home, though wonders may never cease. But then again I didn't really win the lottery earlier, suggesting my luck may be out after all.
Josh has just said he fears it's going to be a long night ahead. Gary seems to be expressing similarly pessimistic sentiments. Definitely not their lucky day.
We're back up! Obviously there is some skill in expectation management round here after all. Normally things turn out to be the opposite - promise loads, deliver nothing... Anyway, half an hour to go then it's home-time anyway!
Things seem fully back to normal again today after yesterday afternoon's fun and games with our internet connection dying. Turned out it was a problem at Demon, affecting quite a few customers, though I'm sure we were on the phone to them a long time before that was acknowledged. A short while ago this morning it became apparent that all the phones were dead, but that's been sorted out now - the sole moderate technical excitement of the day so far, alas.
I've just been pulled off the rail job website stuff that I've been tearing my hair out over for the last few days, which doesn't come as any great surprise or disappointment. I was getting absolutely nowhere with it, and much more important things - for the moment - have come up, so I've left it in a state that "works" in a minimalist form, and pushed the changes live. So now I am going to be working on turning our software into a web server, an off the cuff suggestion I made at a meeting a few weeks ago, that I was surprised actually met with approval, and that one of our customers now apparently actually wants.
But now I've just been asked to accompany one of our sales guys on a trip to Southampton at some point. Apparently they want a technical person to say what he's told the stupid customer already but a bit more technically. They are assuming the customer isn't going to be interested, but I guess have to be seen to make an effort. Unfortunately I don't like being a "token techie". Let's just hope once again that I am successful this afternoon and can hand my notice in tomorrow morning and end this silly chapter of my employment life for good.
Did it go well yesterday afternoon? As well as it could have, ultimately. And well enough that they have just emailed to invite me back next week for a second interview and to meet the rest of the development team. The main guy I met with was really relaxed and chatty, and managed to get the right answers out of me on most counts. The most challenging part was having to write and talk through a bit of simple code, but even that was only to reverse an array of integers - though it had its pitfalls, which I am happy to say I spotted. Some of the questions I couldn't quite give a simple answer to, but it turned out when we discussed around the questions that I actually knew more than I would be confident enough to claim, which is encouraging. But all in all, it was a good experience and they want me back, so I must have done enough right to impress them. As for whether I would accept an offer, that will be heavily dependent on next week's experience. With my current job, I was offered it - and accepted it - on the basis of the equivalent of yesterday's interview only, which sent out all the right vibes but ultimately clearly wasn't enough to base a meaningful decision upon. Good as yesterday's guys seemed, I'm glad not to have been forced into a similarly over-hasty decision this time, and it's a good sign that they are the kind of company to take these things seriously.
Oh, and of course I had a very nice lunch out with Katy beforehand, courtesy of our favourite for Thai, the Golden Fleece. If I do get offered and take this job, it could well end up at least a semi-regular haunt, especially given their rather good lunchtime set menu. We stretched our legs a bit around a nearby lake - and again, finding it was still far too early for my interview - but by then Katy needed some rest and I needed to get back to Elstead, so we parted ways for the rest of the afternoon. In the evening we had the first of the series of bible studies that Katy has devised for our cell group, and that seemed to go really well, with positive feedback all round. Unlike the studies in Milton Keynes, this one had a good hour allocated to it, which really is essential to do any topic any justice - and as someone who would have to admit not being a good bible reader, downright necessary on a personal level too!
The guy who interviewed me yesterday gave me a handy hint with regard to this current task of turning our software into a web server. I'd guessed correctly that a simple HTTP request is terminated with a double carriage return, but realised it wasn't going to be quite as simple with a form POST, which appends arbitrary data after the carriage returns. I should have realised that under such circumstances the browser includes a content-length field in the header, which tells the server exactly how much extra data to expect. So as a result, the simple page-serving server that is the first stage of this task is now able to understand and handle form POSTs with ease. I'd love to say that's the hard bit done and the rest should be plain sailing, but that's not remotely the case. However, it's a good start, and another modest feather for my skills cap.
Phew, that was a busy weekend, but a really good one it has to be said. Only a little disappointed it didn't leave us exhausted enough to sleep very well last night, and we had to get up early to take the car in for its birthday service. The garage has just phoned though, only two hours after we dropped the car off, to say it's done, including having the rear windscreen washer fixed, and for substantially less than the service menu said, so that's really not bad at all.
Saturday was mainly spent visiting people, and being visited - dropping in on Tim's Star Wars DVD themed birthday gathering in the afternoon and then having Simon, Becki and Malachi round for dinner and games in the evening. We weren't too fussed about stopping to watch the films at Tim's party so timed our visit for when there was a scheduled interval between episodes, and that worked well. We plied Simon and Becki with copious quantities of chicken fajitas and Ben & Jerry's ice-cream, Malachi mainly spending the evening asleep - and I'm sure the finer points of the food would have been lost on him anyway - and then taught them Tantrix, which went down a lot better than we had perhaps expected.
Securing our Saturday newspaper had turned out to be a bit more challenging than it should have been, going on a bit of a wild goose chase first with Katy and then on my own in the pouring rain when she ran out of energy, but I found one in Smiths in the end, so we have our weekly supply of crosswords, holiday ideas and of course the TV listings. We would have gone out earlier, but we decided we'd sort out my car insurance on Saturday morning, having obviously decided long ago not to even consider taking SEAT Insurance (a.k.a. Boncaster Ltd) up on their inevitable - and as it turned out, uncompetitive - offer given how abysmal their service has been over the past year, such that I would never again take up "free" insurance on a new car if it was administered by them. But even that turned out to be a bit of a fiasco, with the AA website losing my details and then it not being clear whether they had accepted my debit card or not, so I had to phone them anyway and the (perfectly courteous) jobsworth on the other end insisted on going through every last detail all over again rather than just checking the status of the transaction. All seems OK now though.
Sunday my parents visited for the day, and we suggested that they popped along to the end of the church meeting - as we'd expected, lots of people remembered them from the wedding which was really nice, and they were both enthused by a video appeal for a children's Christmas charity, so it was all worthwhile! We went on for lunch at Millers, but were disappointed to find that they have changed hands and although they are keeping their excellent menu - at least for the time being - they've got rid of the table service and a few other of the nice touches introduced last year. Still good as far as it went though, and the staff were most apologetic. We all went for a walk in the woods, and then returned to ours for tea and a natter, and for Dad and me to have a look at one of the radiators that was playing up. As it turned out, the radiator that had been playing up we got working fine, but another one's died now - and all very annoying given that we only had the engineer out the other day looking at the gas fire itself and we're sure he'd have checked those if we'd thought...
I'm getting on really quite nicely with this web server thing. Well, I was up until when I started trying to implement all the security-related stuff that constituted about two thirds of the vague specification I was given... I know it's important to safeguard our software, but there is simply no such thing as perfect copy-protection, so I do wonder why I am expected to exhaust so much more effort in that than in actually getting the thing to fundamentally work!
This web server was originally my idea, but I only mentioned it in passing - assuming that such a sensible idea would never be adopted - and hadn't really thought about all the problems that the spurious demand for perceived security would present. But now it's been approved and a customer actually wants it, and verily multiple cans of worms have been opened. I'm not a rabid "software wants to be free" open source fascist, but am resigned to the fact that you can never really constrain software, and we might as well just make it as good as possible. We'll lose more customers through our half-baked protection crashing customers' machines than we ever would through theft, I am almost certain.
One and a half hours to go... Brain's just not engaging with this security stuff and I want to go home and be with my wife. If I get offered that job as a result of Wednesday's second interview, I'm not very likely to finish this before I leave, but I'd still like to hand it over in a fairly decent state! But on the other hand, the customer who wants this will no doubt get bored waiting and like all the other mega-critical hyper-urgent stuff that gets requested it will all be wasted effort when they lose interest, and the sales team concern themselves only with who's next going to earn them their bonus.
And not flipping well tell us of course.
Nah, just too darned experienced.
This morning I have mainly spent on the phone talking to one of our customers in Southampton. Not really what I like to do, but at least it's better than the alternative which was to go down to Southampton in person, as I whinged about in here last week. At least Simon seemed a bit more upbeat about the possibility that the customer might buy, so perhaps it's not wasted effort.
Nice to have my car back today, I have to say - and it's all working nicely. They couldn't do the paintwork treatment check, but that didn't surprise me - I'd guessed it was a bit of a con when the treatment was applied in the first place, but it might help keep it looking a bit prettier overall. Katy's car runs well enough, but I don't have enough experience of driving other cars to really feel comfortable with quite different-feeling clutch, brakes etc. Mind you, even mere a day of driving Katy's car was enough that when I returned to driving mine this morning I found myself doing emergency stops at almost every junction, as Katy did when she drove mine for the first time earlier this year!
Today really can't end too soon. Been just one disaster after another, as the number of problems with this software soars to a possible all-time high, given the lack of opportunity we are given to make it even remotely reliable rather than add half-baked new feature after half-baked new feature. Even the sales guys are in broad agreement now, and could only nod forlornly as I described the rigid quarterly development cycle employed at the company I'm visiting again tomorrow afternoon. Nine weeks of development, four weeks of testing - and only then will that iteration of the software be released, apart from the occasional emergency fix of course. But by doing things properly in the first place, those emergency fixes are minimised and should never be as a result of a downright disaster. Instead our software here comprises a thousand emergency quick fixes, held together by a core of antique and undocumented code written by a bloke who spoke hardly any English, to pay for his wedding, and who has obviously long since disappeared into thin air. I sometimes come quite close to weeping when I think what this software could have been, given a better driving philosophy behind it - but the milk's not just been spilt, it's gone all sour, so I may as well just emotionally detach myself from it as much as possible and instead concentrate on getting out of here as soon as I can.
Two pretty hellish journeys home in the past two days - and the first time in the month that we've been at these new offices now almost. Turned out that the problem last night wasn't what everyone here was saying, so I took a rather excessive detour, but I'm sure I still got home earlier than I would have had I sat in the queue of traffic to get on to the A3 as normal. Normally I would wonder if this was "confirmation" that I am supposed to be getting out of this place, but I saw this morning that the signs up in Elstead anticipating severe delays due to forthcoming roadworks have now been upgraded to say that the road is going to be closed altogether for a week - about the only sane route for getting to the new job were I to be offered it as a result of this afternoon...
To cut a not very long story even shorter, I didn't get the job. I thought I "sold" myself quite well at the second interview yesterday afternoon, but it obviously wasn't enough. I just need to convince myself that the reason they got back to me so soon - I wasn't expecting to hear from them until early next week - was because they met to discuss the candidates earlier than expected, rather than because I was so clearly out of the running that they might as well tell me now and save me the wait. So I remain stuck in this hellhole for now, and find myself caring an order of magnitude less than I even did yesterday.
In better news, we had a jolly good Gulshan curry out with Michael and Geg last night to mark our first three months of marriage, but that's all over now. The curry, that is, not the marriage! Just a distant memory and a mild headache.
Just what I didn't need right now...
Get back from a very slow and contemplative lunchtime walk around the block, to hear that the company wants to offer me a double pay-rise.
I already feel about as trapped as the ladies at Her Majesty's Pleasure just along the road, without being forced over a barrel into the bargain.
On the bright side, it doesn't sound like they're demanding an instant answer, though obviously dithering too much won't look very good either.
I hate this place, I really do. Almost as much as I hate myself. Or perhaps even more, I'm not sure. I know I'm overreacting to a simple rejection, and that others have had to put up with colossally more stress over work than this, but I can't even begin to explain how utterly worthless I'm feeling right now. I know I trusted in God to open or close this door as he willed but I'm finding that very hard to accept after the event. I don't understand why he would let my morale and self esteem crash to the utter low it has over the last few weeks without lowering me a rope. I know he's not supposed to let more happen to us than we can bear, and that there is a purpose in everything, but what gives?