Developing in the Trenches

Developing in the Trenches

This is the usual trend in my blog. These periods where I don't post are when I am heavy into developing either sites or software and now that my day job almost mirrors my sidejob. Then I come back with some info that I think is awesome. Of course, it could be common knowledge to most developers with a formal education. But I learned as I went and used what I needed at the time. This leaves quite a few gaps in my education.

The results of these gaps have been: using 75% of the memory available on a shared server, php scripts which don't time out but show a blank page after running a minute, accidental deletion of databases, and more. But I learn these lessons once and then try to post the solution here in English, because I know there are more of you out there just jumping in like I did.

When I started my current day job, I started as a window installer. Gradually the people I worked with learned that I made more money after I went home, working on the net, promoting products with affiliate programs. That put me in the office, working on the web site and the Filemaker database.

Our parts database has over 10,000 parts and was created about 5 years ago, before we had a web site. Filemaker has gone through five versions during the time we used it. And we were getting enough sales and traffic that the way we were tracking inventory just wasn't keeping up. Monday morning order processing sometimes stretched into Tuesday evening.

In this predicament, starting a new database from scratch was not an option. Our's was custom and anything out there claiming to be the best for our business wasn't. The data we could import was limited. So, it was time to rewrite the way our Filemaker database worked.

And it still is that time. I will probably have to rewrite the whole thing. The database has gone through four software updates since it was created and many of the features that are available through Filemaker currently are unusable with the current database due to workarounds that were used in the past. The time for that. Winter. When are sales are lower and I don't have to help out in the shipping department. Yeah, I do.

It's a balancing act when you have to fix the printer, add new computers, figure out why the network is down, do seo, update the database, update the website, and run Ebay auctions. I don't really think I mentioned them all.

And when you work with a boss that doesn't realize how long some things take, you need to learn what to say and what not to say. When you are on a project that will not take that long but he thinks it will, don't mention it and save that extra time for the things he thinks will take an hour but really take more like five.

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Stephan Miller

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Kansas City Software Engineer and Author

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