January 21, 2021
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Life of a VB Programmer

  • By Sam Huggill
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Well, after spending a long timedeploying the new network system, I have finally finished and most ofthe time the network is running sweetly.

The management finally realised the internet revolution (only a fewyears late!) and decided to set up a dedicated unit to deal with newinternet developments.

For some reason they chose me to head up the group, and I was"given" five other people to work with.

This now means two things: more pay for me and a chance to develop myfavourite kind of applications: internet ones. Due to my Visual Basicknowledge and its RAD capabilities, I can deploy them to create easy touse web ready applications using a combination of ASP, CGI and XML.

Part of my new description is to monitor and report on new and breakinginternet technologies, and, at the moment, that means XML.

Yesterday I had to give a presentation on XML, why it's useful and howit will help us to develop our applications.

Just after a rather mind numbing presentation of about eighty carefullyplanned PowerPoint slides, my boss came up to me and handed me a specfor a new internet application that needed to be deployed with the nextmonth!

After the initial shock I read through the report and realised that itwould involve a number of technologies that I had already looked into:Active Server Pages, CGI scripts, XML and some server side VBprogramming.

In a nutshell, the spec was to design and develop a suite of tools towork together. Based around an SQL server database, a front end ASP/CGIweb site would read the data for internet users to view. Internally, thecompany wanted some content on their intranet that read some data andoutput it to a browser version based HTML page. They also wanted a VBapp to administer the data both for the web and intranet from theirdesktop PCs. And they wanted it in all ready in a months time!

My first reaction was to tell my boss that this was impossible. I saidthat my initial forecast for the time would be at least 4-6 months justfor developing the stuff. Testing and deployment would probably take atleast another month providing there were no major problems.

In a desperate attempt to keep my interest he said that he would getback to the company concerned, and put forward the new purposed timescales.

Later that evening while I was still sitting at my desk (such a sadperson!) I was pondering on how I would do this project. SQL serverseemed to logical choice for the backend database, but the intranetwould be a problem as they only wanted a scaled down version of thedata. Fortunately the presentation I had just done was on XML, a new webtechnology. As I had found out, it's not so much that XML is powerfulbut that XSL, the accompanying style language that makes it very useful.

With these technologies at hand, I set out to make a rough draft of howI would go about doing things:

  • Set up a couple of boxes running MTS and SQL Server for the internetbackend
  • Use ADO and ASP with some CGI for the front end web site
  • Deploy a set of XML files to contain the local data and format itusing XSL
  • Write some VB DLLs for the middle tier for the web site
  • Write a couple of quick VB apps that interact with the above DLLs toprovide a simple desktop solution.

Pretty simple you might think? Well, at that point I was almost ready tosay no even if I had several years and unlimited pay to do it. Rightthen my inbox made a sound and I had just received an email from myboss. Good news (apparently), the company had reviewed their spec andhad decided to allow us the time recommendations that I had made, butthey had required to lower the price. As my boss was desperate to makethis new unit a success (it was his initiative in the first place) hewanted to keep this big job.

So, lucky me! At about 9:00 pm I realised that I was falling asleep anddecided to head home, not thinking about the joys of planning tomorrow.

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This article was originally published on November 20, 2002

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