not an ideal environment for web development
Wednesday, January 13 2010
I spent another afternoon in a prison computer lab, again trying to upgrade an isolated PHP-MySQL web application running on an intranet. This time I had much of the knowledge I needed, but unfortunately I didn't have all the software pieces I needed. I had a bunch of flat files for the update but not the new database itself. I'd assumed the hard drive on which all this stuff was stored would still be there when I arrived, but prison authorities had made my liaison take it out when he left this morning, and he'd failed to copy everything. Still, even if it had all been there, today's visit would have been a failure because I couldn't figure out how to disable a password system that was blocking access to the application. The removal of this password system had been barely mentioned by the guy who'd written my instructions, but removing it proved a lot less intuitive than he'd imagined. And I'm a fucking web developer with software cracking expertise! Still, a prison computer lab is no place to do web development. My text editor was Notepad.exe and I only had Window's built-in file searching capabilities. (When working with mystery applications, I normally rely heavily on Homesite's "Extended Find" searching tool, which provides a good targeted search of file contents.) And the environment itself is not conducive to the kind of deep thought that is often necessary when attempting to alter software behavior.
This evening Gretchen and I watched another two hours of the fresh new American Idol season and this time it was like eating a big bag of cheese doodles. I'm so familiar with the show that I can anticipate the arc of a failing contestant's fifteen minutes of fame. Usually you can tell someone is going to sing well if there is a mention of a family illness, a swelling of emotionally-uplifting music, or a video segment filmed back at his or her home or job. Contestants who are failing usually have vaguely-mocking music layered over their intros, and today there were even some mocking video clips produced using actors to dramatize the more hillbilly aspects of one contestant's life story. "Somebody actually storyboarded that!" I gasped. And when the contestant sang, sure enough it was pathetic.
At the end of tonight's show, we were treated to a song by a "contestant" named General Larry Platt who turned out to be in his 60s. His song was a catchy little ditty he'd written called "Pants on the Ground." After we'd been treated to multiple clips of "Pants of Ground" being sung by this "contestant" and various judges, I turned to Gretchen and said, "They'll probably get an auditorium full of contestants singing it next." And sure enough they did.
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