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Programming projects – some experiences

By Dale Reagan | May 18, 2009

A while back someone asked me what about my programming experiences; since my more recent work has been in the systems management arena (OS management, solutions architecture design, provisioning, standards, DR, etc.) I had to dig through a few brain cells to provide an answer.

I started programming business applications back in the mid 1980’s – the first major project was to customize a medical management system running under Regulus (tagged as a real-time, UNIX operating system.)  The application was written using a tool called PRO IV.  If I recall correctly, PRO IV was dubbed a 4GL (4th generation language) type of tool.  Using the tool you would design your data structures, screens and reports and then put them into production use (I suppose that a more current approach might be Rails, which is a bit more code-centric vs data-centric.)

PRO IV description:

I also began working in ‘C’ at this time – mostly creating simple utilities needed where scripting was not the best solution.

A sense of Computing Time

In the late 1980’s I was hired to work on a project which used a tool called Magic PC.  Like PRO IV, this product provided an interface for designing data, screens and reports.  It also provided a ‘hook’ so you could reach outside of the application environment and run other applications (provided that your PC had adequte memory, etc.)   The tool used the Btrieve data manager (TSR) to actually work with the data.    I used the tool for a number of projects including:

At some point during this period I was hired to create a custom TSR (terminate and stay resident) application that did one simple thing (again, Windows was not on the scene yet) – screen captures.  The client needed a tool to save and playback captures of their software product.  I also created a number of Unix-styled tools during this period (for use on my PC.)  I would get questions from clients asking if I could massage data in a particular manner – chances were good that I had a tool (or could write one) for basic data transformations.  [In one instance, a client had an immediate need to make a simple change to an ASCII data export and the mainframe coding, testing, etc. would have probably taken several days – it took a few minutes using one of my little tools…]

Linux had not been created yet but I was using an OS called COHERENT; it was simply a wonderful Unix-like PC environment but it lacked adequate driver support for functions like networking (it did support serial network, i.e. UUCP) and tape devices.  Linux arrived with support for just about everything and it proceeded to become the OS of choice for Unix-type OS fans – including me.

I worked on an embedded application project (a remote CC reader) which was coded in ‘C’, complied to object form and then downloaded into the device – today the device would probably simply be running a customized OS like Linux.   I still maintain an application that converts credit card data between two disparate systems (the CC clearinghouse and and internal, domain-specific back-office application written by a third party – written in ‘C’.)

As they arrive, I explore the newer coding options available via the Internet/Web (PHP, Rails, etc.)  I continue working with shell scripting (favouring the Korn shell – I lost count of scripts written long ago…)  Recent projects have been more about OS management than coding (establishing build standards utilizing best practices in OS configuration and management, OS and application tuning, process automation, web and email server management, OS and application security, etc.)

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