Wayback Wednesday: I’m going to pass on that

Unhelpful vendor isn’t embarrassed to ask for help.

It’s the tail end of the Great Recession, and this pilot fish works for a manufacturer that uses aging automated systems that are already paid for — and given the 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 have 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 email notifications when certain conditions are met.

First thing fish does is call the manufacturer, where a rep tells him that it’s impossible without upgrading 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 emails based on the criteria that management has given 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 salesperson at the machine manufacturer.

“He wanted to know if we were interested in upgrading our equipment, since he had heard about 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.”

Tell Sharky how you did it. Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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