Priorities

Programmer pilot fish is asked to work up a system for moving groups of data files from one remote site to another -- but with some finicky requirements that make conventional approaches like FTP impractical.

"After a few months, I came up with a solution that involved using a service to stuff files into a SQL database and then replicate the data to the other sites," says fish. "Once there, another job would extract the files into folders, which would then be accessed by another system written by an engineer.

"I worked for weeks on the project and it worked flawlessly."

In fact, it works so well that the engineering group retires a system that was purchased for more than $100,000 and begins using fish's system for other projects too.

And the engineering manager is so happy with it that he gives fish a cash bonus and a recognition award for his work.

But two people don't seem to be impressed at all: fish's supervisor and his manager.

"When the award came through, the engineering manager sent me an email and cc'd them," fish says. "Their response was, 'Oh, it seems like you did good work!'"

A week later, fish's supervisor asks him to look over a program written by a former company employee. It's not complicated: The program runs once a day and is designed to copy a text file from a secure FTP site to a folder that the marketing department has access to.

But now the marketeers are complaining they aren't receiving their files. So fish does a little investigating -- and discovers that the secure FTP site has undergone a password change. The fix: Change the password that's hard-coded into the script.

And while he's in the code, fish adds a few basic logging messages that the original programmer didn't include -- like "Connecting to site..." and "Downloading file," along with appropriate prompts for when no files are found or there's some other error.

Time required for the whole job: less than 10 minutes.

"When I showed my supervisor, she was very excited," says fish. "She told me, 'This is huge! Now we can tell if we got files or not!'

"She emailed the manager, who was also wildly enthusiastic and even wrote it up to present at the next managers' meeting.

"I've decided that my work is nothing more than a Dilbert comic strip."

Sharky's got more words, no pictures -- and it's all true. So send me your true tales of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt every time I use one. Comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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