Monday, 11 March 2013

These (Tech)Days

Well, I suppose I had better start with an update on last week.  Whilst it has been sitting with me for the whole week, it’s not something that has been dictating my life for the week.

As I said last week I am going to avoid baths for the time being and stick with showers.  Due to sheer volume of water that it takes to fill a bath it’s not something that I did regularly anyway.  The only problem of course is that as soon as you make that decision, you start to think ‘I could really do with a long soak right about now!’  Hohum.

So…  What have I been up to in the last week?  Well it’s been a long one, but it’s also been a lot of fun!

The consultants that are helping us with our TFS migration came by this week to perform the second test migration of our server.  A few weeks ago they came for the first attempt – where they did the migration themselves, writing a run book along the way and seeing what problems our setup could throw at the process.

This time I was in there with the consultant running through his run book making sure that it made sense to me, and that it provided us with the desired result.

Due to a last minute appointment I was running a little late on the day, so I only started at 10am, by which time he had made sure that ICT provided all the correct files for the migration (I don’t mind not being present for that as it’s something they are going to have to do on the migration weekend itself).

So I got there, checked my mail and my boss told me to have an enjoyable day migrating the machine.  Hahahaha.

We started the process from the initial snapshot that we took of the other machine last time.  So Windows was installed, SQL was installed and we could just get started.

Going through the first couple of hours everything seemed to be going so smooth, restores completed, SharePoint databases were converted to the in-between state (we were jumping several versions, so we needed a middle point) and backed up ready to transfer to the final machine.

Then when everything was in place we started the upgrade procedure, and that is where everything stopped.  Instead of it slowly going through the upgrade steps over two hours, it just did nothing for three hours.  The server was not amazingly busy, but the physical memory was totally full…

Anyway…  To cut a long, and boring, story short the migration that should have taken a few hours took nearly 10 in the end, and I ended up leaving the office at nearly 8pm!  That is a full ½ day longer than normal (although I did not get the office on time, I did start at 6:40am at home!)

So…  No running (which was my plan for the evening).  No healthy food (just cold creamy bacon pizza from Dominoes).  And a very, very tired me.

And yet…  The company I work for was on television that night, on a consumer affairs program and the website was hugely busy.  With being home so late I had not even remembered this, right until I got a call from my boss to tell the web site was dead, and could I call our data provider as everything seemed to be hanging there.  I said that I had not noticed, as I had just got home from the test migration and had not yet finished my dinner.  He was very good at that point, and offered to take over my normal role in these situations (I am the contact point, and responsible for the site running as it should run – so it should have been me taking the lead here!) and told me to relax and enjoy what evening there was left.  He just asked me to make sure that there was a  meeting arranged for the next morning to get all those involved in one room for a stand-up meeting to discuss the plan of action to try and make sure this situation could not repeat itself.

I did this, and by the next morning there were about 40 emails in my inbox from the conversation that went on until 1am (seeing as I get up at 5:45 I was pleased not to be a part of that).

The next day was pretty much taken up trying to see what went wrong on the website the night before.  Unfortunately the only things I was able to find in our error logs were unrelated (but still things that need fixing so I asked the business to create and prioritise the bug reports needed).  I was zombiefied from the day before and sitting trying to write SQL statements to filter all of the unrelated errors (without filtering out useful information) was a pain in the neck!

But…  It was a gorgeous day, the sun was shining and it was really warm.  By the time it came to leave (much later than I had planned – another 9 ½ hour day!) the sun was still shining and I was really looking forward to getting home, getting changed and running without a jacket on for the first time of the year!

I got home (late) got changed and by the time I left the house the sun was just about still visible over the horizon.  Not the run I had planned, but the sky was still such a beautiful peach colour as the sunlight reflected and refracted in the clouds that it was still wonderful!

The only issue was that I left my armband at home that lights up at night, and by the time I had done 5KM it was really needed.  I got home just as dusk was really descending – tired but happy J

The following day I knew that I was going to be rushed.  I had the last two days of the week off, as I was going to a conference, and was leaving early as I was meeting someone in Amsterdam.

Honestly, what I did has gone.  Just gone.  The day was rush from one thing to the next trying desperately to get everything sorted in time!

Except…  One meeting I had with my old boss, who is now a business unit manager and needed a tool.  We have something similar for another business unit and he wanted to save time by reusing some of the architecture that they already have.  Now, that one is necessarily complex and not fault tolerant in the slightest.  It also lacks documentation about how it’s made, why it’s made in the way it is and how it connects with the rest of the systems. (Cass – we need you!)

So we were trying to figure out just how it was going to work, and just how complex it was going to be – going backwards and forwards with requirements and ended up envisioning this major, complex system that was going to die constantly and be difficult forever more.

And then it hit me, just what he was trying to achieve.  Strip out the wish to reuse architecture that wasn’t actually needed and you ended up with a system that is going to be inherently useful for the users, simple to develop and best of all use completely standard systems so there is no horrible deployment configurations to organise, or try and keep safe.

After checking with everyone involved that I wasn’t being stupid and it really was as simple as it seemed I arranged a requirements workshop for whilst I was at the conference (I would have liked to be there, but sometimes it’s just not possible) and was left being quite happy with the way my neurons suddenly sprang to life.  It really is the part of the job that I love!

In the bi weekly team meeting that followed I gave a quick update on what I was doing, and included this, and was taken aside by my boss at the end.  It seemed everyone expected this to be quite some work and he was planning to try and get some extra capacity from another team to help develop the solution and was over the moon that it wasn’t actually needed.

And finished with, “You’ve earned your money today, go and enjoy yourself in Amsterdam with your Friend.”  I can’t think of a better way to end a meeting J

And…  That brings me onto going into Amsterdam to meet a friend (the wife of our best man) who I had not seen literally in years.

I parked the car in a small town (and small space – the wheels of the V70 were on the white lines on both sides of the car!) outside of Amsterdam and caught the train into the centre.  If I can avoid driving into the centre of Amsterdam I will, and if I can avoid paying stupid amounts of money on parking the car there I will!

We met up outside of Central Station and went to sit at a café for coffee (seeing as I had to drive…).  Now remember what I was saying about the weather the day before, as in sunny, warm and decidedly spring like?  Well the next day was supposed to be similar.  So there was me in a nice skirt, jumper and jacket drinking the coffee.  Whilst my fiend was sitting there wrapped up in a thick coat.  She had the right idea – I ended up shivering!

But it was really nice to catch up again and we sat chatting and drinking for an hour or so before she had to meet up with her colleagues again (there were there for the day).

I missed my train to get back to the car, and so I decided to see if there was a nice café at Central Station.  There was, one that I had not been in for years – the 1st Class Café.  Built on the site of the old 1st Class waiting rooms if I remember correctly. And wished that I had thought of that when we met.  Much nicer atmosphere and warm!  I had another coffee and took in the room – it is very art deco and very nicely decorated.  And surprised myself.  I don’t like sitting somewhere by myself, and immediately took out my e-reader to hide behind.  But…  I didn’t actually use it that much.  I just took in the room and relaxed.  Even made eye contact with other people in the room as I was taking it all in.  It’s something I can rarely do, and was all the more special for it!

So… That brings us to Thursday.  TechDays NL in Den Haag.  I work exclusively with MS software and systems.  And the chance to see what is new, what has changed, and get some tips and tricks is always good.

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to go this year though – like I said I’m quite busy at the moment – until I found out that a couple of the people who helped us with our TFS migration recently were giving talks on TFS and how you can use it.  Well, seeing as I know how much they know about the system (they were the only ones who we saw that convinced us they knew what TFS was, let alone knew how to do one of the most evil migrations I have ever done!) I thought it was an opportunity that was too good to miss.

So there was me, two days wearing a T-Shirt trying to get people to work for my company.  Which has a picture of a camera on it.  Which on the t-shirt on me sat in a rather unfortunate place! Rushing from teak to talk, taking notes upon notes during each one.  Ranging from front end web development, to back end web development to the ever wonderful TFS server (actually, I lie.  I like TFS when it’s set up right, it’s just a pain!).

After two days of this I had lots of tips and tricks, I had some nice talks with the speakers that came to do our server who are going to send me some files to make our server even better and I was exhausted! Information overload from the 10 75 minute sessions that were all quite deep in their technical level.

But I enjoyed it a lot!

And finally…

Well, actually not finally.  This is only until Saturday morning, there is more from this week but that’s another story!

Due to the conference I had missed a day’s exercise and so decided that I was going to do it Saturday morning.  And then I woke up!  Rain drumming on the window, and the wind blowing around the street.  I checked the weather (I could always do my indoor exercises that day and do the running the next).  Err….  No.  Really not.  Rain, windy and cold today or snow, windy and freezing the next day.  I choose to get wet! J

By the time I got back I was soaked to the skin, my hair was stuck to my face and I was a little cold.

But I had also cut 4 minutes from my time whilst keeping to the heart rate that I was trying for.

An excellent end to an excellent week!


  1. Ah... I remember the days of being the go-to for the network. My boss was understanding, too. He didn't get very upset when I needed an hour to get into the office at 2AM on a Sunday morning. Or when I spent an entire weekend troubleshooting a problem. Which happened a lot... (Primitive tools, a network I didn't design and demanding bankers. Not a wonderful situation to be in.) I spent a *lot* of time in those server rooms! Entire weekends, 20+ hour days (esp. for the trading floors) and seeing my wife for a moment or two, literally and just before I passed out from exhaustion, when I get home. And it was non-stop; there were plenty of Friday nights that got cancelled at the last minute. Plenty of weekends, too. Far too many times when I called the wife and said "I'm leaving for California/Georgia/wherever in a couple of hours; I expect to be back in a couple of days." 70+ hours a week were not uncommon. That was Wall St in the early 90's. (I hope it's gotten better!)

    I'm glad to have had the experience. I'm very happy to not have to continue gaining it. :-)

    1. What can I say... The two things that came up are my responsibility. There is not really anything else that could have been done. It was a case of bad timing.

      We try not make sure that overtime is not something that happens constantly (this week I made sure that I left one time almost every day). Management get worried when someone, anyone, is working 60 hours week in, week out - it is not good for productivity or decision making.

      And when everything works as it's supposed to it makes the occasional serious overtime worth it!


  2. I like weeks like that when the work doesn't feel like work and the hours fly by. I don't do it for the overtime (don't get that) nor the bonus (blink and you would miss it), just because sometimes computing is actually fun.

    Next year do you get to choose what to wear at the recruitment stand?

    1. I have to admit Monday was not one of those days. I wanted to go running! The day dragged by as the progress bar didn't move for 3 hours at a time.

      Some of during the rest of the week was great though, and really enjoyable :)

      We didn't have a recruitment stand, we were there only as attendees, just attendees with funny t-shirts...


  3. I was reading this thinking "these folks sure could use a technical writer." Imagine my surprise to see myself name-checked! lol Has me smiling and blushing at the same time. :c)

    I have had more than a few of those crazy all-nighters myself. You haven't lived fully until it's 3:00 AM and you and a developer are trying for the fourth hour to describe some obscure scheduling protocol in less than 140 characters for a tooltip! My eyelid is twitching involuntarily just thinking about it years later. [shudder] I'm sure hers is too. :c)

    I had a good workout last night - third day in a row, and I managed to do 70 minutes. Not at anything close to my usual level, but I was able to do my segments (30/30/10) without stopping, which is encouraging. Slowly but surely I am making progress. Emphasis on "slowly." lol

    Have a great week, sweetie!


    1. Oh god yes! And great that I have ability to make someone thousands of miles away blush! ;p

      When I was younger I did do the all night sessions. I remember being that into the coding that I suddenly noticed it was 3am, and that I had to present it to a customer at 9am... I did that for a few months until I had a mini physical burn out. At that point I decided I never wanted the same again and have managed to avoid it since!

      Well done on the workouts - 70 minutes is longer than I can bring myself to do at the moment (though I may have gone for 90 this morning if I had started earlier. At 50 minutes I felt I could do a second lap, but I also wanted to eat breakfast whilst it was still AM (I run before eating)!

      Hope your week was as fun as mine!


    2. I totally relate to burning out. I worked 60-80 hour weeks from March through August once at my first job. I became a bit obsessed. (Almost as I were hiding from something... hmm, what could that have been? lol)

      It finally came to an end when my manager and her husband (who worked with both of us) came by my desk one Friday night at 8:00 after returning from the gym. She literally unplugged my computer, then dragged me out to dinner with them. I had lost 15 lbs without even knowing it! (And I can't afford to lose that much!!!)

      Thank you for the exercise praise, Stace, but I must confess it isn't 70 minutes consecutively! I can only reach it in stages, even at the lower levels at which I am currently functioning.

      At the moment I'm trying to increase the length of these increments, to rebuild my stamina. I know from experience that will take several months. Once I do that, I can focus on increasing the levels.

      I don't know if this occurs for you after an extended layoff, but I know I plateau at some point and struggle for multiple workouts to get past it. Once I do though, that is when I start to see improvement, and rather quickly too. I hope that pattern continues! I want my girlish figure back! lol

      Have a great week, sweetie!

      == Cass

      P.S. I work out before I eat as well. Otherwise I feel guilty!