Indexo patronum!

It's a few decades back when this college student pilot fish lands a part-time IT job at a research hospital, where part of his job is helping out doctors who have -- surprise! -- research projects.

"One doctor had received a grant and developed a statistical database for childhood leukemia," says fish. "She had a grad student program it in an early PC relational database, but he left at some point.

"Her database sat unused because she didn't have anyone technically savvy enough to reproduce his work."

Fish takes a look, and it turns out the grad student was doing everything with the database manually, including running reports. So fish's first step is to develop a menuing system to make it easy to perform housekeeping tasks and run reports.

Now that it's useful, another doctor on the research team wants to do some analysis on the vast dataset. She develops a report query and runs it.

And it runs. And runs. And after hours of running, she gets nervous, thinking she's somehow broken the system, and kills the long-running query. Then she calls fish to find out what's wrong.

Fish reassures her that her report hasn't damaged the data, which calms her down immediately. Then he looks at the query -- which appears to be technically OK.

But after a little more analysis, he picks out the columns her query is joining on, and creates an index on them. Once that's done, he runs the report again.

It completes in eight seconds.

"So I incorporated her report query into a script, where I first built the index, then dropped it after the report was complete," fish says. "Then I called her back into the common work area and showed her the new report, now easily accessible from the menu.

"She was completely amazed that her report now completed in seconds. She said I was a magician!"

Sharky will make your identifying details disappear like magic if you send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com -- and you'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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