Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder


How do you measure progress? Or the level of your skills? In the last five years I spend quite some time learning all kinds of IT related skills. I consider myself an autodidact, someone who wants to learn on his own without certifying that knowledge and those skills. I learn for the fun of it, well knowing I will never measure up to the real specialists.
For example, I can not code in PHP, but I understand enough of it to read PHP-based pages and modify some of the code. I just pick up the skills I need and move forward when a new challenge presents itself. Like this week.
The organization I work for introduced a new client registration system this year and it is unbearably slow. The CRS is based on MySQL which is accessed through a client program. The hardware is okay, the network speed is fine, the server load is minimal and yet it takes 20 seconds for a form to load.
The support call to the company who installed the CRS only returned some bogus arguments like a weekly restart of the MySQL server to clear the cache and the suggestion to migrate to a Citrix based solution. At the same time they didn’t do anything with the suggestion to check whether the MySQL install was optimized for our server (a well-documented issue). Oh, they were willing to send a team to upgrade MySQL onsite and check the optimization… for a price. It couldn’t be the problem, but they were willing to cheque.. sorry, to check it out.
Fortunately we have an external team for our sysadmin tasks and we decided to setup a linux based MySQL server with a copy of the database. Yesterday a copy of the database was made and what did we find out? It was empty. The forms were there, the tables were there, but the tables were empty. No data. Or, to be more exact: the data is not stored in the database. We still have to find out where the data is, but it does explain the abysmal speed.
For me it was a small milestone. Apparently I learned enough to cut through the crap and set up a digging process. And it made me wonder: how many more small organizations with hardly any IT knowledge are screwed in this way?


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