No thanks

This pilot fish works for a manufacturer that uses aging automated systems that are already paid for -- and in this economy, it has no interest in trading up.

"The automated systems use software that monitors the systems and writes to an Access-type database, giving codes," fish says.

"Problem is, each of the 20 systems has its own PC and its own database, and to get reports you had to go to each and every PC and make a copy of each database."

Fish is tasked with coming up with an easier way to get reports -- and while he's at it, to see if he can make the system send out text messages or e-mail notifications when certain conditions are met.

First call is to the manufacturer, where a rep tells fish that it's impossible and suggests that the company upgrade the machinery. Fish politely declines.

After a few days of tinkering, he has set up a SQL database and imported the Access database design. Then he goes to each of the automation PCs and sets the database on it to use linked tables in the new SQL database.

Then fish writes a Web front end to access the data, and sets up triggers within the SQL database to send texts or e-mails based on the criteria that management has given to him.

And when he's done, it all works -- and it isn't even that much of a kludge.

That's when he gets a call from a salesman at the machine manufacturer.

"He wanted to know if we were interested in upgrading our equipment, as he had heard of our problem," says fish.

"I explained I had gotten things to work without an issue. He was quiet, and then said, 'Can you tell me how you did it? Because I have other customers who want to do the same thing.'

"I politely declined and hung up."

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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