Humble Bundle Book Deals

There is a book sale going on at Humble Bundle. You can get 15 Python books for $18. Now I already own some of those books. But I did find at least 5 that I would definitely buy. The value here seems so strong. I am a sucker for deals. However these books are in digital form only. I have come to hate eBooks.

I do have another option. If I buy books for college or for certification, my company will usually reimburse me. They have a high budget per employee each year for this. This year I have already got the company to buy me 6 books. I figure I might be reading these books past the end of the calendar year.

Still. I would like to also get these books. So I am going to wait until I am ready to take a mid-level Python certification exam. Then when I do, I will ask for those 5 interesting books to be purchased by the company. That should keep me busy well into 2022. The total cost for the print versions from Amazon is $135. That is even with Amazon's discount from the MSRP.

Perl Code Broken

We were getting close to turn on some software we developed last year. The last piece we forgot about was the piece that automatically ran the jobs on a weekly basis. I negotiated the timing of the jobs with other stakeholders. Then I figured out some cron job entries to make these jobs wake up at the right time. Last piece was to test the cron job runs in development.

At first, I scheduled the simple job to run. The thing bombed because it could not find an include file. That seemed odd. The file was in the same directory as the Perl script that was running. But that directory was not in the @INC path. Why not? I thought this had worked before. It actually works when I run the job manually.

Upon further inspection, I found that the profile that was run when the cron job executes had a bug. It was not setting the PERL5LIB directory correctly, which in turn would get added to the @INC array. That was too much details for somebody who is not a Perl programmer. But hey. I guess this was a small opportunity to learn something.

Harvard Learning

I have previously heard about Harvard offering some courses online for free. Well you can do that now with CS50. This course seems to teach a ton of info. It seems to last almost as long as a normal college semester. It claims to teach you C, PHP, and JavaScript programming. You will also learn SQL.

There are a total of 9 assignments in the class. There is also 1 final project. You only get to audit the class. However, if you plunk down $199, you can get a certificate of completion. I bet I could have my company pay for this course. Not sure if it will do me any good.

I do like the idea of being able to tell people that I "went to Harvard" for computer science. LOL.

Getting Access to the Code

Right now I am working on a tiger team to research why this new reporting system has different data than the old one. Most of the time I try to figure out what exactly is the complaint. The customers speak in a code of sorts. And lots of the tickets are written with the perspective of the new data loading system.

Now I did do a stint on the new data loading system for a few years. And I spent half my career on the old system. I think that is why they have me doing the research here. There is this one small database that I don't have much experience with. All the values in one certain field in it differed between the two systems. Hmm.

I found some documentation for the old system. Something looked screwy. There was an input field from a COBOL program that produced a values in dollars. However in the old system target database, they seemed to be storing dollars and cents. The cents portion was not zero. Felt like a defect to me.

To truly declare this a bug, I needed to look at the source code. Oops. The source code is only available on this Solaris UNIX system. Okay. I got access to a common account on there. Nope. You got to have a personal account to get access to the code. I tried to log in. Wrong password. I requested a new password.

Eventually after a second password reset, I got access to the UNIX. They got some Perl shell script to create a view to the code. Ran the script successfully. But where the heck is the source code. Turns out it gets stored on some shared storage off on the network. Whew. Tough job just getting to the darn source code.

Defect Ticketing System

At the end of last year, I left my prior project. Not sure if the cause was lack of money or retirement of the system I was working on. Could have been both. Luckily, and old manager offered to bring me back onto his project. They had interesting stuff to work on. It was mostly new development or new automated testing software.

 Eventually I had to work a trouble ticket from the customer. I thought I would just look the issue up in their ticketing system. Nope. I no longer had access to it. Maybe this was because I switched projects? Turns out I lost access because I had not used the system in a few months. Seems like an easy fix. I put in a request to regain access.

Some sys admin denied my request. He said I was not authorized to use the system. LOL wut? Turns out he looked up my name in his system, and did not find the proper authorization. I got help from my rep in the customer organization. They schooled the sys admin, telling him he was using some outdated system to look me up.

All right. I just want to get access to the ticketing system. So I asked the system admin to add me back in. The dude says that my request was denied, and I have no new requests. OK. Turns out I have teleported into a scene in The Office. Yeah the request got denied by you dude. You are using the wrong procedure to vet requests.

Oh well. Slackers are going to slack. Guess I need to put in another request. Hopefully I don't get the same goon servicing my request.

Microsoft Certification for SQL Server

At the end of last year, I got a surprise. Was the victim of a layoff from my project. Had been there 3+ years. I should have known something was up as the custom was rushing me to get a lot of stuff done before the end of the year. My takeaway is that I need to always be prepared to get another job. To do that, I need to stay sharp, especially with my technical skills.

My company did not lay me off. Just got the boot from my project. I searched around within the company. Found a couple jobs that seemed interesting and related to my experience. They all seemed to be using the Microsoft SQL Server database though. I have not dealt with SQL Server in forever. Time to brush up on my skills.

I figure I might as well gain a certification as I am learning this stuff. Plan to achieve an Associate (MCSA) certification in SQL 2016 Database Development. That should get my feet wet. It feels like a mid-level cert. I will need to pass two cert exams: 70-761 and 70-762. I have signed up for a Udemy course to prepare for the first exam.

Installing SQL Server right now. That feels like a story for another blog post.

Microsoft Azure Basics

Today I attended a one day class on the basics of Microsoft Azure. This is the cloud computing platform from Microsoft. Normally the course retails for $690. There was some agreement between Microsoft and the training company where I would not have to pay any money to attend the class. I like that price.


One subtlety that I think I picked up on was the true meaning of a private cloud. I previously thought that meant you have all the servers on your own premises. This is not necessarily true. The real meaning of private in this context is that nobody but you has access to these cloud objects. The machines they run on are 100% dedicated to you and you alone. The machines might be physically located in your building. But they could also be hosted by a cloud provider.


I was also surprised at the costs involved. Sure, Microsoft will take care of all the hardware, networking, patching, and so on. But I used their calculator to estimate the cost of a normal virtual machine. Would run me about $750 a month. Ouch. I think if I were counting costs, I might just want to buy a physical machine and handle the patches myself.


Some things about Azure were encouraging. It was really easy to spin up a virtual machine. You could also put together a server running SQL Server with a minimal amount of clicks. Just know that you will be paying a lot for these things. I hope I can get a free Azure account and play around with some of these configurations without incurring any real costs.