Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Programmer needed

About a year ago I started developing a piece of software that allowed SMS messages [or 'text' messages if you prefer] from mobile phones to come into the computer system that is used for listeners to the radio and satellite TV stations to contact them. I was creating a 'glue' layer between a program that someone had written to send and get SMS messages from mobile phones and a database system that someone else had written. A 'glue' program sounded easy. And it started off that way... and grew... and grew...

This was also a 'cheap' solution - using a regular mobile phone with a cable connected to the computer. Worked great in development, works mostly fine in production... but... sometimes and totally unexplainably the computer fails to connect to the mobile phone. So a week or so ago I wrote a 'restart' procedure so that if it failed to connect it would restart and connect correctly. Worked well and solved the problem. We have two systems - one 'live' and the other 'development'. The development one is also used for our fault reporting system so that we are using it enough to debig things before the 'live' system.

So, since it had worked fine on the development system for a few days, a couple of days back I upgraded the live system. What I forgot was that the restart procedure needed an upgrade of the main system. So... rather than restarting it started another copy of the program. Today there were complaints about the un-reliability of the text system within the last couple of days. Looked on the system... more than 250 copies of the program running and a new one starting every 15 minutes! Ooops!

OK, return it to the old system and everything back to normal. Next thing is to integrate email into the listener response system. We act as the integrators and find all the traps others have left all over the place, and so it was with this. One of our partners in this project had set up their domain in a strange way... as the 'experts' we're there to try and untangle the mess. Very often in these cases untangling it takes longer than it would have done had we set it up in the first place. Oh well...

Programmer needed? Yes. We need someone with Perl and PHP programming experience to take on this side of the work as it's expanding and not leaving me enough time to do other work. I quite like a small amount of programming [meaning a few days a month] but we now have enough work to keep at least on person working full time on programming.

Oh and we have been talking with partners about a more elegant solution rather than using regular mobile phones. If we can go that route it might allow us to integrate regular voice telephone calls into the system.

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