School Supplies

(The first post documenting my experience with the online class Software Engineering for Software as a Service)

This was not like a trip to Wal-mart for pencils, binders, and pens. The first step was to create an Amazon Web Server account for the virtual machine. That part of the process was too easy. Basically with your existing Amazon account you can create the AWS account and be logged into a running instance within minutes. There is an additional security phone call to input a PIN to verify the account creation.

The next thing was to download a PuTTY and configure a session using the private key I created and downloaded from AWS. My preferred Telnet/SSH client is Poderosa, but I had issues getting the key file together with login, so I went with the well-documented instructions on PuTTY usage that I found on the Web.

To clarify this free course is the same as UC Berkeley course CS 169. This will only cover the first 5 chapters of the course text. There are only 60,000+ enrolled in the class. Imagine a lecture hall the size of a football stadium.


OMG! I Think I Broke SAP

A few days ago while I was working on a new monitoring script for our SAP systems, one of the  SAP team members came by and said: “I just got the strangest error message on my screen, did I break something?”

Above is the error message in a screenshot I took to memorialize the event. One thing I know is that a joke that requires explaining is likely not very effective. For any non-Americans: in the US a pool table is a pocket billiard table. This caused the first bit of confusion. Secondly, for the majority of us for whom SQL is not a second or – God forbid – first language “LIKE with ESCAPE” has absolutely no meaning.

So to the person who alerted me to this, it appeared that somehow their actions had caused SAP to collapse into a state of returning random meaningless phrases  — SAP’S BROKE! The short story, of course is that SAP was not broken. Instead a diligent programmer provided an informational message to warn against using a search string with the “_” character in it. Of course the search returned valid results, did not run for 30 minutes or any other bad thing.

I began reflecting on how difficult great programming really is. Creating the code to work as designed, returning valid information is a great accomplishment. Building in the facility to react reasonably to the input from the human interface adds further complication and skill. If I had one recommendation for the SAP style guide it would be that when an entry field contains input that is not expected (ie non-numeric) PLEASE, PLEASE do not generate an  ABAP dump, instead return a message pointing out the field requiring correction.

Alternatively, I offer my standard error return code in the spirit of Open Source:

echo “Dear %username% that is incorrect. In order to prevent further computational error/abuse the hard drive on this computer will self-destruct in

5 …. 4…..3…..2…..1………………………………………………………………….”

terminate  2>&1 >/dev/null

Share your favorite confusing messages in the comments. I’d love to hear or see them!

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