Only a little smoke

December 8th, 2007

Twice this week I came in to find the database that was supposed to be cranking out morning reports instead saying, “Invalid argument.” For those without any coding background, this is basically saying “The thing you want to use can’t be used that way, or maybe it doesn’t even exist.”

In a previous generation of the same setup this would happen if the routine had previously failed midway through execution, because a table would have been deleted and not recreated (the error message was different, though: “Object not found”). Because of this very problem, in my last redesign I made sure that no tables were deleted and recreated so that this would not happen.

The first time I saw this message I figured something had been accidentally deleted or that something was corrupted, and I would most likely need to recreate the database–either copying all of the objects out of the old into a new, or just building the third generation of the database. I have been wanting to build the third generation for months now, but my needs for this next version entail a complex of separate databases interdependent on one another, which all need to be updated off of the real, official plant software, and have to be updated in the right sequence to produce useful data.

It will be a big project, one that requires at least periods of intense concentration to think it out in an orderly way, and I have been trying to get my direct-value work done first. (Direct-value–I made up that bit of business jargon to mean the stuff I do that has an immediate result for people who respond to my work.)

Just so as not to abandon the ship when a little bailing would do the trick, I ran compact & repair and that actually did make the problem go away. Except that it appeared again two or three days later. Compact & repair worked again. If this were a machine at Acme and not a piece of software, we would say that it is good working order. But then that’s just because we don’t understand TPM.

I persist in thinking that one of the reasons I was hired to work directly for Acme was to retain my skills with Access as a way to get useful information presented with a modern manufacturing perspective out of an old system built around outdated manufacturing theories. Whether this was part of the original thinking or not, it has not been much of my actual job. My boss does not seem to be very interested in this cabability of mine. While I have made time to put together a few reports that add valuable information to what is readily available, these reports seem to be mostly ignored, and I do not often field requests for regular reports on key business functions. I have had drive-by requests for good enriched data, and many requests for momentary data, but not a request for serious sustained data with the clearance to spend the time it would take to deliver that kind of result.

My database needs to be rebuilt and I would love to do it, but I am not sure that it is actually my job or that my boss would appreciate my using the time that way.

After all, what I’ve got is only smoking a little.