Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Keep One's Humour

I spent a wonderful day in a hot, noisy, greasy, metal stamping plant. The last time I was in that factory, it was much quieter. Too quiet. It was January 2009 and they were shut down for the winter, as the recession was just beginning to ravage the auto industry. The 2009 visit installed a new distance sensor and an additional A/D board for the sensor. In this post I mentioned that we would be back in a few weeks to install the software upgrades. Well, here we are, a few weeks later... ^_^

Actually, my customer had tested the new software extensively in 2009 without needing my help. Today, she was merely enabling the software upgrades. But first, I was supposed to figure why network connectivity to the data acquisition PC had suddenly become finicky. It's so finicky that it suddenly started working while I was diagnosing the problem. Lovely. ^_^

Anyway, we decided to enable the upgrades since it is much simpler when you have a working network (swapping compact flash cards is so much more difficult ^_^). By the way, did I mention that my customer had tested the software extensively way back in 2009? Yes. Yes, I did.

Now we all know that it doesn't matter how much you test the software, until a user actually accepts it, it's not actually correct. And as I discovered today, even experienced programmers might forget this little detail. You guessed it; one of the users immediately noticed that the results from the new sensor was wrong. Uh oh!

Unfortunately, there are enough variables to juggle that it quickly became clear, we were not going to solve this one today. The sensor is a sophisticated beast that can measure distances of a few 10s of millimeters accurately to less than a µm under ideal conditions. You don't mess with its configuration lightly. This project was shelved for the day as we reverted back to the original software.

And the punchline to this thoroughly dismal day, is that the finicky network problem came back. Of course it would. Otherwise, it wouldn't be a finicky problem, now would it? ^_^

It helps to keep one's humour intact on days like today. ^__^

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