Tales from the Machine Room

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The cream rises to the top... ($leeches 4)

(Continue from the previous story)

A few MONTHS have passed by now, during which I did... Not much. If we look at the code produced, most of it was done in the first 2~3 weeks and for the rest I was waiting to get information, waiting to get libraries, waiting to get data... A lot of waiting and not much coding.

But now, finally, I managed to finish the code and the whole application (including a small "install" that I put together at the last moment) has been delivered to UL3279 that turned around and delivered it to UL4573 for the "testing". After a few weeks I got a couple of "bugs" (things like "the first week of the year should begin with the first Monday, not from the first of the year", that I completely missed because by chance that year began with a Monday) that I started immediately to fix.

While I was there happily coding, UL3297 shows up.

UL3297 - Hi! Have you heard of the move?
Me - Move? What move?
UL3297 - There is a renovation scheduled for the building...

I look around, to the flimsy, half-broken and keyless doors, the tired painting of the 'classroom' that remind me of an old medieval castle after a barbarian invasion, I think at the lonely escalator downstairs... And I can't help but be absolutely "in" with the renovation. Especially if it involves lots of buldozer and wrecking balls or a big, powerful bomb.

UL3297 - ... so everybody is moving to the other building we have right behind the corner.
Me - Oh, really?
UL3297 - Yes, the move is for tomorrow.
UL3297 - But you don't need to do anything, tomorrow a bunch of peoples arrives, they pack everything and move everything and from monday we go to the other office.
Me - Ok, and where should I go?
UL3297 - To the other office, I just told you.
Me - Yes, but the "other office" will contains multiple offices, I suppose.

At least, I hope so...

Me - So which one of the many?
UL3297 - Heee... this will be communicated later.
Me - Ok, today is tuesday, if they came and pick up everything tomorrow, what am I supposed to do until friday? And how are the offices being communicated?
UL3297 - Ah... Eh... 

So, 3 days doing bloody nothing!

Finally, monday arrives, I go to the "new" office. And run smack into the first problem: getting inside. The entrance is not a 'door'. There is a ... thing that looks like a cross between a phone boot and Enterprise's teletransporter.

After trying to figure out how this thing works, I pull out the phone from my bag and call UL3297 that after a bit picks up and then, after hearing my lamentation, realize that he "forgot to give me the new badge" to get in. So he arrives to let me in by the fire exit.

UL3297 - (handing over the badge) This is to get in, you wave it there by the reader, that thing opens, you get in, it closes, open the other way and you're in.
Me - All this to get into an office? And that thing looks quite small, what happens if somebody is a bit overweight or suffer from claustrophobia?
UL3297 - He stay outside.

He guide me to my new "office", at the 3rd floor. Office that is a huge open-space with several desks inside. And I can't help but notice that the only desk with a computer on is mine, in the middle.

Me - ...everybody else uses pen and paper?
UL3297 - No, the office is only for you at the moment.
Me - Oh joy, at least I get rid of CL14396 and his incessant whistling.
UL3297 - Actually the whole floor is all for you.
Me - ...came again?

Yep, the only jackass on the whole floor. And I quickly find out why: the heating was broken. And we're talking about November, in Milano. With temperatures between 0 and 5C. The result is that I get sick and spend a week at home in bed. Then I declare that I am NOT going to work in that office.
Since the project was "paused" waiting for the tests, UL3297 decided to "lend me" to UL9733 for another one.

And now we need a little explanation.

The structure of $leeches was the typical reversed-pyramid, instead of one King and lots and lots of peasants, there were a lot of "manager" that had less and less "underlying". Since the whole business was based on selling financial products that were MANDATORY by law, there was no chance for the business to dry-up, no need to worry about "customers satisfaction" and all that kind of stuff. So... how do you climb the corporate ladder? Easy. The technique was as follow: sit down and wait. As long as you don't make any mess, sooner or later you'll get a promotion to a new, "high-sounding" title and a pay rise. And as you can understand, the easier way to NOT make a mess, is to NOT do anything. Technique that all the employees of $leeches have perfectly understood and refined to an art.
Another, faster, options were to wait for somebody in an higher position to be absent (naturally or not) and swiftly move in that spot and increase the number of "underlying" under your control. The latter was the reason why once a consultant was called in for a job, he was never let go again. The consultant was at that point counted as a "member" of the department, even if he wasn't really a member. Even if there was nothing to do for him anymore. To avoid people playing solitaire all day, sometimes consultants were "traded" between managers from one department to another, this way one single consultant was counted twice.

So I got "traded" to the supervision of UL9733 from the 3rd to the 7th floor, that turned out to be a loft, but the heating was working at least.

And the project I had to work on, in collaboration with CL3 that I already mentioned, was a bit... he... strange...

As you understood by now, $leeches was (and is) an insurance company, and the principal "product" was (and is) the "vehicle" insurance. Where "vehicle" refer to a whole range of things that goes from a scooter to a 384-wheels-truck. And everything in between. Agricultural machines? Yep. Bulldozer? Yep. Cranes? Yes! Side-loader? Absolutely! If it does moves on the ground and doesn't fly, is in there.

The software managed to produce such insurance was, as you can imagine, complex. So complex in fact that it wasn't really a "software" but a fully-fledged programming language. And the "insurance" were actually different "software" written in such language. And each one was built a spider web, with each "node" that represented a multiple-choice and could lead to another different node or a completely different web altogheter.

To build and maintain each of those "programs", an entire dedicated "IDE" had been built. And there was a full department dedicated to that job alone.

And the project me and CL3 had to crack was... build a Windows interface for the whole thing.

And if you think that it sounds easy, believe me, it wasn't. Not at all.

While I was trying to figure out what the fuck, CL4762 shows up to ask a "suggestion".

Me - What?
CL4762 - You're an expert in Windows right?
Me - (thinking at a certain "certification") ...kinda...
CL4762 - I'll show you.

We go to an office where there are 3 computers set up: a huge Olivetti M380 and a couple of M19. CL472 explains.

CL4762 - Ok, normally each agency is setup with a computer that is provided by us, this one (point to the M380), this has our software and the network and is managed by us. The main agent then usually buy other machines (point to the M19) that are connected to this one and uses the software via the network.
Me - Ok.
CL4762 - Now we want to distribute and use Windows, but when we start Windows from the other machines, they are incredibly slow!
Me - (looking at the M19s) That doesn't surprise me at all.) 
CL4762 - Yeah but nobody can work like that, look.

He starts one of the M19 that boot from a floppy and then automatically connects with the "server" and after a while is there with his blinking cursor, at this point CL stars windows that start chugging trying to load everything via the network.

Note that we're talking an era where the network was SLOWER than a disk.

CL4762 - See?
Me - Yeah, I wasn't expecting anything different.
CL4762 - But that's unacceptable, how do we solve this?
Me - Using better hardware, with a better processor, more ram and an hard disk and installing Windows on the hard disk.
CL4762 looks at me for a bit - No, you don't get it...
Me - I get it very well, but this is an hardware problem not a software one and you won't solve it with software. If you want a faster machine, get a faster machine first.
CL4762 - No, we can't do this.
Me - Ok. Are we done here?

Left CL4762 a bit miffed because I couldn't solve his problem snapping my fingers, I go back to my table to try to figure out how to solve my problem, and after a while I find out that this "software" they use to manage each "program" is equipped with a series of interfaces that allow things like "show a text on the screen" or "show an input form" or "wait for input" and so on.

And in my head I start to plan... To plan of keeping this thing as an hidden "engine" while the input and output are routed to a "Windows shell" built on top. So basically unplug the DOS interface and plug in a Windows one. It will probably work very badly but it will work. And the alternative is to rewrite everything from scratch. I start writing down something.

In the meantime, CL5 (that I already introduced last time) shows up, and he apparently sits at the table in front of mine with a nice wooden bookcase with glass doors behind his back.

CL5 - Oh, you're here too?
Me - It looks like it. By the way, how are going the correction to that library of yours?
CL5 - Oh... Eh... I haven't got much time to work at it, you know... things to do...
Me - (reading on the reflexion in the glass behind his back) "Gigi Maifredi, today in spain, will watch two football matches of the Salamanca, team he is supposed to sign a contract with later this week, first against the Siviglia and then against the Atletico. 'if the team has potential I'll sign' he declared yesterday..." ...move your helbow a bit...
CL5 - (looks at me stupified)
Io - ...there is a glass behind you...

Is going to be a very long winter...

At the end of the day I walk towards the exit and find a mass of people in the "lobby". I look at my watch but it's 17.02 already, so I was expecting everybody to have pulled the "eject" lever already and be on their stampede towards the trains...

Me - What is going on?
CLXXXX - The "tube" is broken... something in the network...

The "tube" is the door-phoneboot-teletransporter thingy.

I walk towards the fire exit.

CLXXX - If you open that the alarm will ring.
Me - So?
CLXXX - But....
Me - Look buddy, you either let me go or I'll call the police and accuse you of kidnapping.

Push open the door and walk towards the metro. Yep, a very long winter indeed.

(to be continued)

09/09/2020 11:25

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Comments are added when and more important if I have the time to review them and after removing Spam, Crap, Phishing and the like. So don't hold your breath. And if your comment doesn't appear, is probably becuase it wasn't worth it.

8 messages this document does not accept new posts


By Me posted 16/11/2020 10:42

Il bussolotto mi ricorda quando nell'azienda dove ancora lavoro ci trasferimmo dalle stanze ricavate nel magazzino della merce ad una palazzina costruita appositamente. Tra le varie magagne, ogni piano aveva un simpatico lettore di badge per l'accesso, in modo che ognuno potesse entrare solo dove gli competeva e non gironzolare a caso. Inutile dire che durarono nemmeno una settimana, e le porte furono aperte e bloccate con dei professionali scatoli di fogli A4 da fotocopiatrice. 

-- Me

Messer Franz

By Messer Franz posted 16/11/2020 13:22


> Risultato: 3 giorni a fare un cazzo!

...e la novità è...? in quel posto, intendo...

> c'e' un "coso" che sembra un'incrocio tra il teletrasporto dell'Enterprise ed una cabina del telefono.

Sarà un caso, ma tutte le volte che nomini l'enterprise stai parlando male di qualcosa...io la fantascienza non la guardo, ma mi sa che se hai dei lettori trekkie è meglio se non racconti più dove vai in vacanza...

> L'unico imbecille in tutto il piano!

tu vedi sempre il lato negativo! Ti hanno riempito la stanza di scrivanie, così non ti senti solo, e puoi farci anche amicizia! Mentre ti fissano con i loro sguardi lignei alle spalle...e cigolano cose che non capisci ma SAI che stanno parlando di te...

> il sistema piu' semplice ed infallibile per "non fare casini" e' "non fare niente".

quindi non erano un branco di sfaticati, erano tutti degli arrampicatori aziendali! Eri tu che non l'avevi capito! Malevolo...

> Se vuoi che il computer sia piu' veloce, devi cambiare il PC.

...quelle persone che pensano che basti settare due flag, aggiornare una dll e un pc decuplichi le prestazioni...che fanno da equilibrio cosmico con quelli che fanno (o fanno fare) programmi da schifo e la soluzione è "compriamo nuovo hardware, perchè ammettere che abbiamo fatto fare il programma a dei cialtroni ci costa in orgoglio personale, mentre comprare pc/server solo in soldi". Poi falliscono, ma ne sono molto orgogliosi!


...ok, ho finito...tu scrivi storie belle, ma dai troppi spunti ad un matto come me...

-- Messer Franz

Davide Bianchi

@ Messer Franz By Davide Bianchi posted 16/11/2020 14:44

Sarà un caso, ma tutte le volte che nomini l'enterprise stai parlando male di qualcosa.

Ciccio, si chiama "Enterprise"... tu riesci a pensare a qualche cosa che e' chiamato "Enterprise" e che non sia male?

-- Davide Bianchi

Anonymous coward

@ Davide Bianchi By Anonymous coward posted 16/11/2020 16:35


Sarà un caso, ma tutte le volte che nomini l'enterprise stai parlando male di qualcosa.

Ciccio, si chiama "Enterprise"... tu riesci a pensare a qualche cosa che e' chiamato "Enterprise" e che non sia male?

Questo è bene: https://www.pinterest.it/pin/468515167465558866/ :\)



-- Anonymous coward

Anonymous coward

@ Davide Bianchi By Anonymous coward posted 16/11/2020 18:39


Sarà un caso, ma tutte le volte che nomini l'enterprise stai parlando male di qualcosa.

Ciccio, si chiama "Enterprise"... tu riesci a pensare a qualche cosa che e' chiamato "Enterprise" e che non sia male?

Da : https://thedailywtf.com/articles/graceful-depredations

"Cloud management consoles are, in most cases, targeted towards enterprise customers. This runs into Remy’s Law of Enterprise Software: if a piece of software is in any way described as being “enterprise”, it’s a piece of garbage. "


-- Anonymous coward


By emiliano_ska posted 18/11/2020 18:59

Questa porta-cabinatelefonica-teletrasporto mi ricorda un tornello di $societa'di telecomunicazioni dove per entrare, se anche avevi lo zainetto in spalla, non riuscivi a passare! Comunque questa saga di $succhiasangue e' spettacolare. I mie complimenti per aver resistito tanto!

Sono sempre contento quando trovo una nuova storia.

-- emiliano_ska


By Sbranz posted 19/11/2020 13:51

Naaaa, il bussolotto che non funziona e impedisce ai cicci pasticci di schizzare via alle 17 in punto! Ma non è che ben incastrato lì dentro c'era il ciccio pasticcio panzone che paventavi quando hai descritto quell'obbrobrio?

-- Sbranz


By Thomas posted 22/12/2020 00:00

<i>E stiamo parlando del mese di Novembre. A Milano. Con temperature oscillanti tra lo 0 ed i 5 gradi. Provate a stare seduti ad una scrivania usando un computer con quelle temperature.</i>

Valle d'Aosta, dicembre. Conosco il tuo dolore.

-- Thomas

8 messages this document does not accept new posts

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