Coffeehouse Thread

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Ye gods... help me

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  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    As some of you are now aware, I've just taken some random IT job down at a local company (holiday money for doing virtually no work, who'se complaining? Wink )

    So anyway, my horror when I saw the current system in place:

    The company is powered by a little-known database product called "Equinox", it looks like a hybrid of MS Access and MySQL, in that there's a frontend, which is almost exactly like Access (complete with "make-your-own" forms), but its a database server (called "Equinox Cogs") as well.

    (However, I cannot find any information about an ODBC or OleDB interface for the server).

    ...so the company is powered by a propreity database product no-one's heard of, that's not too bad.

    But then, their online presence is powered by Actinic.

    Problem!

    a) Actinic is HORRID! Rather than using server-side generated pages, it creates a new 30KB non-validating HTML4 document for every product in the database. Which then has to be uploaded manually to the company's public web-server down in Chester.

    b) "Actinic's Database" is another problem. Actinic doesn't interface with Equinox at all. Instead, the employees have to export the data from Equinox into (Shock horror!) *.csv files, then import them into Actinic, then upload the Actinic generated HTML to teh intarweb.

    c) Whilst I was getting to know everyone, I heard background chatter about "the database not working!" or "I can't figure this thingie out", so there's clearly some efficiency problems arising from the current IT solution in place

    d) As for online order takings, Actinic on the server in Chester runs fine, orders are placed and the Actinic client software here downloads the changes and saves them to CSV, which is then imported manually into the Equinox database

    And now for the other issues:

    a) All the machines here are running Windows XP Home Edition, there is no AD or Domain infrastructure in place
    b) The file-sharing system is a mess, network browsing takes at least 10 seconds to start up
    c) All the computers are running at 1024x768, which looks horrid on this 19" TFT display, just out of the ignorance of the employees who think that you need to run your computer at the same resolution as the website customers
    d) The boss thinks that Microsoft > W3C when it comes to HTML
    e) ...he uses "Coffeecup Editor" FFS!
    f) The only server, the one that runs the "Equinox Cogs" database server is running NT4 (OMFG!)

    There are no plans to make any major changes to any of the current solution.

    ...and any changes to the database frontend are not allowed because the "people downstairs" cannot be retrained in any new solution.

    ARGH! GAH!

    Please, help meeeeee!

  • User profile image
    Tensor

    Welcome to the real world. Enjoy!

  • User profile image
    JohnAskew

    Just try not to get any of that stuff on you... it will stain anything.

  • User profile image
    Angus

    Talk to the manager of the computer systems in the company, tell him/her that the company needs to implement their system in different ways to obtain a better work environment, where people are not always saying how they can't work this or that.

    Also if you want to get rid of "Equinox" then you could contact someone from Microsoft, I think I heard that they can help come up with good reasons to use their software for people who want to convince their manager, if you managed to come up with enough positives they would surely change to a better product.

    If that doesn't work, just hope that the whole system is destroyed somehow and you are appointed to change it Tongue Out

    I think, if I know what you are on about, my Dad has had similar problems at his work, I don't think they have solved it yet.

    Angus Higgins 

  • User profile image
    billh

    Also, be careful whose stapler you borrow.

  • User profile image
    Tensor

    The thing is, this is not atypical - hence my first comment.

    In the real world, you do what works.

    Does what they have work?
    Does it do its job and keep the company going?
    How much would it cost to replace it, and what would the RoI be?

    There are 10's of 1000's of developers etc out ther ein jobs like the one you are in now. the important thing is to keep swimming - the moment you stop and get comfertable you drown. If you see what I mean.

  • User profile image
    Minh

    Changes are scary & risky. Especially when the guy pushing for those changes would be gone in a couple of months anyway. Also, the system is kinda working. Maybe you need to show your boss how they'll sell more widgets by changing.

  • User profile image
    Angus

    W3bbo, how big is the system?

    Angus Higgins

  • User profile image
    Rossj

    Minh wrote:
    Maybe you need to show your boss how they'll sell more widgets by changing.


    Although you know, they might not be able to sell more widgets by changing that stuff. If it works for them and is not their primary source of income why change when it works so well for them?  Changing will just cost them money and add more risk..

  • User profile image
    Maurits

    W3bbo wrote:
    a) Actinic is HORRID! Rather than using server-side generated pages, it creates a new 30KB non-validating HTML4 document for every product in the database. Which then has to be uploaded manually to the company's public web-server down in Chester.

    b) "Actinic's Database" is another problem. Actinic doesn't interface with Equinox at all. Instead, the employees have to export the data from Equinox into (Shock horror!) *.csv files, then import them into Actinic, then upload the Actinic generated HTML to teh intarweb.


    In their defense, this system is perfectly appropriate for a low-powered server and data that doesn't change too frequently.

  • User profile image
    billh

    But it does sound like an inefficient system (in terms of file space for starters, workflow process, etc).  Once they smoothe out those inefficiencies, it may allow them to grow as a company and not spend their time fighting their own systems.  Then they can focus on building sales...assuming a change to the system has not set them back too far financially.

    However, as Minh and others have said, you may not want to rock the boat too much, especially if you will be moving on in a few months.  Even if you are planning on staying, learn what they have first, what works for them, why it works (or doesn't) and get to know people before suggesting a raft of changes.  Often, if you go on the offensive suggesting big changes right away, you might make a lot of enemies in a hurry, especially being the new guy...even if the setup could use a lot of improvement. Write down your ideas if nothing else at this point and hold them until a later point when they are more comfortable with you.

  • User profile image
    Minh

    Rossj wrote:
    Minh wrote:Maybe you need to show your boss how they'll sell more widgets by changing.


    Although you know, they might not be able to sell more widgets by changing that stuff. If it works for them and is not their primary source of income why change when it works so well for them?  Changing will just cost them money and add more risk..

    True. He should talk to the people there & see what gripes they have with the current system. Then show how a turn-key system can fix it all for them.

    If there are no major gripes, then just take the $$$ & be happy.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    I asked more about this Equinox database system.

    It costs £2,000 for a 6-user license, support is £1,200 a year.

    I had a quick look on teh intarweb, SQL Server Standard goes for £1,200 thesedays, but how many user licenses is that? (or is it a single-processor/unlimited user license?). And then, don't all Microsoft products come with free support for a while? (and competitive rates to boot)

    Well anyway, we had a discussion and I see no reason to change the database system, just to get rid of the main bottleneck: Actinic.

    ...but I can only replace Actinic with an ASP.NET solution if Equinox support replication/synchronisation and has an interface with DotNET (either via COM, OleDB, or ODBC).

    ...so time will tell really.

    Anyway, thanks for the advice Smiley

  • User profile image
    Maurits

    Instead of looking at this as an opportunity to spread ASP.NET... look at this as an opportunity to learn an alternative way of doing things.  The more tools you add to your personal toolbox, the better for you.

    If the best thing for their setup is for you to set up a data pump to pull a CSV file out of Equinox, push it through Actnic, run the resultant HTML file through an XSLT, and FTP it up to six different web mirrors... so be it.  Come up with a cost estimate to do it the ASP.NET way, and to do it a homegrown way.

  • User profile image
    JohnAskew

    W3bbo wrote:
    I asked more about this Equinox database system.

    It costs £2,000 for a 6-user license, support is £1,200 a year.

    I had a quick look on teh intarweb, SQL Server Standard goes for £1,200 thesedays, but how many user licenses is that? (or is it a single-processor/unlimited user license?). And then, don't all Microsoft products come with free support for a while? (and competitive rates to boot)

    Well anyway, we had a discussion and I see no reason to change the database system, just to get rid of the main bottleneck: Actinic.

    ...but I can only replace Actinic with an ASP.NET solution if Equinox support replication/synchronisation and has an interface with DotNET (either via COM, OleDB, or ODBC).

    ...so time will tell really.

    Anyway, thanks for the advice



    MSDE is free. I would bet it is more capable than Equinox for whatever Equinox is currently doing.

    Who's getting graft from using Equinox? Surely they won't mind a free replacement that performs.

  • User profile image
    yanchaowang

    this reminds the tvshow---friends when racheal cut the credits her father gave her

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    JohnAskew wrote:
    MSDE is free. I would bet it is more capable than Equinox for whatever Equinox is currently doing.

    Who's getting graft from using Equinox? Surely they won't mind a free replacement that performs.


    Because

    a) they can't afford to re-train employees
    b) they can't afford the time to convert 100+ functions, forms, and "Equinox Language" to Sprocs, Access Forms, and T-SQL.

  • User profile image
    JohnAskew

    W3bbo wrote:

    Because

    a) they can't afford to re-train employees
    b) they can't afford the time to convert 100+ functions, forms, and "Equinox Language" to Sprocs, Access Forms, and T-SQL.


    Ah. They get what they pay for. BTDT.

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