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  • #2288302

    Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!


    by Jay Garmon ·

    Technology professionals are supposed to be some of the smartest people around–and now’s your chance to prove it! TechRepublic is compiling a list of the best IT ideas of 2004. Did you develop an innovative solution, conceive of a great new strategy, or simply find a way to survive the most competitive tech environment in a decade? Well then, commence bragging! Share the best ideas you came up with this year–even (or especially) those that management refused to try–and your name and brainstorm just might earn a spot in an upcoming TechRepublic download.

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    • #3302756

      Unrecognized IT Genius

      by rob ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      I was assigned last year to be the SME (subject matter expert)for a major IT system upgrade effort. I worked on a team tasked to design and build a next-gen netcentric solution for an airborne Army application.

      I needed a way to push data from various serial devices (GPS, radios, 1553, etc) out across the LAN to all the nodes on the network. To this end I found a vendor for Serial-to-LAN converters (Avocent)and tasked them to modify their firmware to achieve UDP broadcasting. A serial-to-LAN converter is a device which will “convert” an RS232/422/485 signal to ethernet and vice versa.

      I had used Serial-to-LAN converters for quite some time to remotely control serial devices. But this new twist allowed all the data coming across those devices to be pumped out on to the subnet. Therefore, all the nodes residing on the LAN need only “mine” for the data they need out of this stream.

      This has worked excetionally well for us. Now before you say “old news” I point out at this time I could find NO such converters with UDP capability. In fact, Avocent was the third or fourth vendor I approached about doing this and the only one willing to undertake the effort. The first few vendors I asked to do it refused.

      Lately I’ve noticed this is practically a standard feature on all these type converters. This solution was truly ahead of its time.

      Rob H.

    • #3302754

      Data Mirroring on A Buget

      by gldotoli ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      On my last assignment, at a Non-Profit, we began collecting gigabytes of SQL data at a branch office. We couldn’t access the data center ad-hoc, since our computer equipment was housed by a larger government agency. Physical swapping of tapes and access was difficult.

      We purchased a $120 dollar 200 gig hard drive, with an external case from Cyberguys. Utilizing blat and Robocopy, we backed up all of our data (20 gig) to the local RAID disk and the external drive. In addition we used NT backup to nightly format a tape and perform a full backup.

      We put the Robocopy bacth file in the scheduler and every night we:
      Stop SQL services
      Mirrored the data
      Wrote the Robocopy LOG to File
      Started the SQL services
      Via Blat emailed the results to Helpdesk support.

      Utilizing the resource kit and free blat software, we implemented data mirroring and alerting. Something some larger firms spend thosands on and never get it right.

    • #3302738

      No body need them!!!!

      by tanvirlodi ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      Salam, Hi, Danke, Marhaba,

      I am in the field of computing since 1989. I am very good learner with good logice. I can work on any software, hardware provided i be given a book about it.

      I need something challenging to be done in my life and i need free hand to acomplish it.

      But it seems nobody need someone life me so that is why i am job less today.

      So, i think no one need a Genius out there.

      Bye, Thanks for your time.


    • #3302730

      Secure Comminications

      by sheldon.fougere ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      We needed a secure way of communicating with our member organizations. Email was proving to be not the best solution. We send confidential information back and forth such as home addresses, salaries and the like. Couriering the information was proving to be impractical.

      I created a web site secured with SSL and user authentication where member organizations would upload files to the web server. A script would then run on the web server to copy the files to a secured file store where staff would access it. Once the file copy was done the files on the web server would be deleted.
      The reverse of this was creating a site where staff would upload files for members to access. Each member organization has it’s own location. When staff log in to the website they are presented with a drop down selection box to what organization needs the file.
      The organzations then go to a web page where there is a list of all the organizations (this is not confidential) and they select there particular link. Once authenticated, they can click to download the file. Once downloaded, the can also click a check box beside each file to be able to delete the file. If they don’t do this, the files that are two weeks old or older are deleted. This script runs on a daily basis.
      The members and staff love this. It has increased productivity by not having to wait for couriers.

      • #3302694

        Realizing what you have

        by calgary ·

        In reply to Secure Comminications

        One of my clients conference rooms are located in a public accessible area. These rooms are normally locked but opened up about an hour before meetings and locked up when someone thinks about it. A weekly list is published on Friday stating rooms and network connections required for the following week. On paper, the rooms network connections would be enabled then disabled during the day by a telnet session. This worked great until it got busy on the floor or your meeting ran late. I told them that they could set up jobs in their newly acquired Cisco Works that would do all that work for them and that it wouldn’t forget. Now when the conference room booking schedule comes out Friday afternoon the required connections are built into jobs that enable and disable the ports according to the schedule. They had never thought of using it for that. They also like the idea of the confirming “job successful” emails. Not a big deal but it works great for them….

    • #3302689


      by threeeagle1world ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      One solution that you may have not considered, is to go to local university IT dept and speak with the dean or dept head and ask if they would not mind doing it for you, using their students for a class project and gaining experience, and of course you can offer to pay them and even donate some money to the dept.

      • #3290689


        by apotheon ·

        In reply to Solution

        What exactly is that supposed to solve? You lost me. This doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the original post.

        “ask if they would not mind doing it for you”
        Do WHAT for “you”?

        • #3303148


          by vltiii ·

          In reply to Huh?

          I believe he is right on track for the original post, regardless how ingenious it really is. His ingenious solution is to have someone else do the work.

      • #3303142


        by vltiii ·

        In reply to Solution

        Funny you should mention this. Our senior project when I was working on my BSCS was to right a medical scheduler program. I heard throught the grapevine after we graduated that the professor was actually selling the program to hospitals… hmmm…

        • #3302115

          one problem

          by apotheon ·

          In reply to Re:

          That’s called “plagiarism”. Unethical behavior doesn’t qualify as “genius” in my estimation.

        • #3302266

          Re: Problem

          by vltiii ·

          In reply to one problem

          As I stated, I heard this through the grapevine, i.e. a former classmate. What I don’t know is if he was giving the class or school credit or not for developing the program. If so, it wouldn’t be plagiarism. This was many years ago and I also don’t remember what the schools policy was towards programs developed by students. It could have very well been that once our projects were submitted they became the property of the school. In either case I don’t personally have any feelings one way or the other. I can’t speak for my other classmates that participated it the program development.

        • #3302212

          even so . . .

          by apotheon ·

          In reply to Re: Problem

          Even if they became property of the school, they did not become property of the teacher. There’s still a problem there.

          In any case, plagiarism isn’t the same thing as copyright violation. If you have sole printing rights to a book written by Heinlein, you can reprint the book without violating copyright law, but that doesn’t give you the legal right to print it with your own name listed as the author.

        • #3300293

          Re: even so

          by vltiii ·

          In reply to even so . . .

          I agree with you as far as what plagiarism is and what constitutes a copyright violation. I just don’t have enough facts about the sale(s) assuming that he actually was making the sales to say that he commited any violations. He may very well have met all requirements to make the sale.

          As to ingenious technology is concerned, in my opinion it certainly qualifies as thinking outside the box to adapt existing technology to fulfill a need as opposed to developing something from scratch.

        • #3300232

          put like that . . .

          by apotheon ·

          In reply to Re: even so

          I don’t have any points of disagreement with what you say, when you put it like that.

    • #3302599

      Saving Money through standardization!!!

      by donengene ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      Management everywhere is always worried about cost. My Idea for the year is to standardize all of the printers here at the University of Redlands, so that we can purchase consumable such as tonner or ink cartriges for the year getting a volume discount. Currently everyone has thier own printer and very few people have the same model or brand. Out of the 6 people in my imediate office none of thier desktop printers is the same. Cartriges need to be ordered for each individual printer and only a small supply kept on hand so ordering and administration efforts are higher as welll as the costs for the cartriges. If we could standardize the printers for the entire organization, we would have a supply on hand, simplify ordering, and save from 35-50% on the annual cost of tonner and ink.

      • #3302566

        Not a good idea

        by trockii ·

        In reply to Saving Money through standardization!!!

        Replace all the printers? How about buy all the current toner and ink needed from the same place? That would get a bulk discount too. Think smarter not harder. 🙂

        • #3303477

          Not so bad

          by raul62 ·

          In reply to Not a good idea

          What about the cost of the device itself against the first cartridge replacement? Nowadays you find the printer cost (cartridge included) very close to the cost of the new cartridges. I don’t mean “Buy a new printer every time”, but “Think only about the cost of installing the new printers at each PC, once”. And then, look at the bulk prices.
          Once you have a standard, all the TCO comes down (replacements, stocks, buy orders).

      • #3302468

        You work for U of R?

        by apotheon ·

        In reply to Saving Money through standardization!!!

        That place has some of the most absurdly high tuition rates I’ve ever seen. Does any of that trickle down to the IT/IS department(s)?

    • #3302594

      Cheap DR

      by jmd10k ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      When I started working for my current employer, we had no standards and no redundancy. Since then, we have resolved most every problem with the exception of one. When a company does a backup, the purpose of the backup is generally DR; our backups went straight to disk. Not bad, however, the disk it went to was part of the same array that the data was stored on. We spent all our DR money on an autoloader and at the time thought that we could make NT Backup do the rest. We were mistaken. This is where I had to develop a new solution that wouldn?t cost a dime.

      The problem:
      1. NTBackup clears the archive bit after backing up to disk
      2. NTBackup does not work well when you remove tapes from the library

      The solution:
      I decided to do a bit of coding and developed a simple command line program that we could use to set the archive bits of the backup files from NTBackup based on modification date. Once this was completed and we tested the command, we noticed the second problem. I then wrote a program that would take 2 parameters and would build the backup jobs based on those options.

      In closing:
      We now have a backup system that can do similar things to the much larger TSM or Netbackup. We are now able to do backups to disk like TSM for quicker restores. We can then make copies of our backups to send off site. We still only have the power of NTBackup, but now it operates more like an enterprise backup solution, we just have to baby it more.

      • #3290832

        Very Interesting…..

        by dp_batman ·

        In reply to Cheap DR

        I would be very interested in seeing the code. I am in the process of setting up a disaster recovery system

        • #3290685

          release code

          by apotheon ·

          In reply to Very Interesting…..

          Maybe this should be released as an open source project on SourceForge.

        • #3290615


          by jmd10k ·

          In reply to release code

          That is a possibility. The code is pretty basic right now; I am still in the process of making it a bit more usable. It is currently two separate command line utils, which works great for us. One searches a specified folder for files that have been modified within a specified number of days and then sets the archive bit. The other simply builds a backup job for NTBackup and has two params, one is the rotation name (i.e. week1, month1…) and the other is either “a” for append or “o” for overwrite. They will continuously backup to new tapes and you have to manage tape rotations. This does make it much easier than coding all of the backups individually since they would have to be full backups.

          If it would be of interest, we can start a thread discussing this. I am checking out Source Forge and will see about getting the code in there. Who knows, this could turn into a full blown “Cheap DR” solution…

    • #3302520

      Mask to recognize Vioce Orders

      by zebraitis ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      why don’t make a standarized way to identify each way we talk and then can share this info. that we extract from a high porcessor machine to lower procesor capabilities devices like smart phones to teach them to recognize our orders, and think, you teach one time for evry device, dont’t look great? sorry for my english, bsee you.

    • #3302518

      Colloborating Windows Components

      by ytvsoftware ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      I am developing my own project as an extension of Windows OS for purposes of integration and colloborating of applications.
      Below are just 2 examples of features that I have implemented and can show the screenshots or demonstrate “alive”.
      1)I developed an Active X control for high speed presentation of data by Graphes/Charts.
      The idea is that those control has option to print the image in a certain rectangles of the paper. By this way I hide many lines of codes and simplify the programming.
      2) It is frequent that so called Tree control and List control used together (like tree directories and list of files in the selected directory)
      The idea is to combine both controls in one Active X control and make instances of the Active X control have peer type of communications at run time. The image: tree or list is defined in run time together with all options for. Additionally it has special options automating use for typical purposes like presenting Folders/Files, Windows Registry, Running Proceses, Existing Windows and other special objects I use in my project.

      • #3290891

        holy cow

        by apotheon ·

        In reply to Colloborating Windows Components

        I hope, for the sake of your network’s security, that the computers for which you use this ActiveX control don’t have Internet access.

    • #3303431

      UPS Shipping Interface

      by jckrueger ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      We wrote a VBA Word Document program that interfaces with the UPS Worldship program. This code downloads a shipping order from our mainframe allowing us to scan the original printed order which loads all of the shipping data into the UPS system, then your just hit the print label button and ship it. The VBA program also invoices the shipment back to the mainframe using the UPS shipping data. This program replaced a $25,000./year system. It also does multi_box shipments, handles short ship line items, and other good stuff. It is custom written for our mainframe interface, but could be tweaked for other datasets if you know VB. Didn’t get a raise, but did get a couple of ‘Attaboys’.

    • #3303412

      Internal and Perimeter network security solution

      by gracedman ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      In the process of redesigning our company from a typical body shop IT outsourcer to Managed IT Services Provider, we needed to inexpensively and securely deliver IT Services literally from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world. To control costs, we needed to merge all of our clients into one giant network connected through the Internet. The biggest headache was the security management. We had to allow any of our staff anywhere access to any client but the instant one client saw another, the lawsuits would fly and we would be out of business. Thus, we needed not only perimeter security but security between each and every site.

      This is the same problem confronted by enterprise WANs. Nowadays, an intruder is as likely to be postured on the internal network through a trojan planted via phishing, SPAM, some hapless wireless home VPN user or a stolen mobile device as trying to break down the corporate firewall. We must have network security on our internal networks as well as the perimeter.

      The problem is that the required rule sets become hopelessly complex and prone to human error. One can try to manage this with expensive products like Solsoft or SmartPipes.

      We found a way to sandbox our networks — to grant network level access with robust user authentication on an as needed basis and we did it in a way that is between 90% and 99% more efficient than any commercially available tool we have found in five years of searching and with much less exposure to human error . . . and we launched it as an open source project.

      The details are found at
      We also added many more features than just access control. The product automates NAT creation in even the most complex scenarios. It automatically handles the ARP responses for NAT. It allows for extended user authentication to be extended throughout the WAN without assigning virtual IP addresses. It helps to easily resolve conflicting IP address space. There is much more on the roadmap such as the automation of QoS.

      Unfortunately, my company has not grown as quickly as we had hoped so it is no longer cost justifiable for them to support this development effort. The funding stops at the end of the year as does my job.

      I have actively begun seeking corporate sponsorship for the project and have begun training a volunteer support community around the project. Anyone who is interested can contact me at

      • #3303330

        Holy Open Source, Batman!

        by apotheon ·

        In reply to Internal and Perimeter network security solution

        This one gets my vote so far as the all-time best solution implementation yet described in this thread. Kudos, John. Keep up the good work.

        • #3303169

          Market value of solution

          by gracedman ·

          In reply to Holy Open Source, Batman!

          Thanks, Mr. Wayne! Send folks our way; it is an enormous undertaking. We have seen two companies attempt a proprietary, commercial version of what we have done. Both spent eight figures to do it. One has failed and the other is near success.

          It is an insanely ambitious project. There was originally supposed to be a team of four to eight experienced engineers on this project but the entire team was cut before the project began so I, a CTO and network engineer by trade with no development experience, had to do it all. Thankfully, we’ve had six volunteers recently join the team. However, we can certainly use more. The list of what we need is on the web site (

          Like most open source projects, what we need most of all is regular sponsorship. To that end, we set up the Open Source Development Corporation ( So, anyone who can convince their company that this would be a great product for them, send them to that site! I have seen the alternatives priced somewhere between $60,000 and $750,000 and we are over 90% more time efficient than they are and more secure!

        • #3301102

          sure thing

          by apotheon ·

          In reply to Market value of solution

          You’re welcome. I just call it like I see it.

          I’ll definitely keep you in mind.

    • #3303291

      Enterprise Name Services

      by walterwhitehead ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      My company is small but has big needs, I’ve designed our active directory enviroment and name services to span 24 sites with localized DDNS/DHCP/WINS services DNS is AD integrated.

      Bottom line each site is 100% functional if the corporate Root site fails. In DHCP all clients point locally for name services primary and corporate for secondary allowing for complete DR functionality from any of our 24 sites who each have their own DC’s. Not a brain storm but network access and user functionality has improved 100% since implementation 1 year ago.

    • #3303207

      Low End Solutions

      by yanipen ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      Since the beggining of the year, our management decided to have our own email and internet access. Business is growing and it is more practical for us to have our own. We are in small business and wants to establish a strong identity from our mother company

      But management restricted users with internet access and email. Only few have both, and many with email only.

      Given our current situation of very old workstations and windows 98 os, plus, the one big factor of all – budget. I have to think quickly about saving the company some money without sacrificing performace. I came up with using two Intel Celeron desktops configured as server. Both of these are p4 class, so I am not worried about speed and things like that.

      I configured one to be the email server, and the other as the web server. This way, I can restrict those machines with email only and both email and internet access. This method I did raised eyebrows among my IT friends from around here. But, this is the way I did it. I explain to them that most of our pc here is as old as it gets (P-133 mhz) for that matter, and managment does not want to purchase newer pc as of now, and perhaps the coming year or so. And os are win98se. It does not have the functinalities of win2k prof. So what a guy have to do? Bear with the situation.

      I know, I know, some of you guys might think that the company I am working in are slave drivers. Well, that’s the way it is.

      Anyway, the situation gave me a real challenge though. And I mad it work. I save most on hardware purchases. And it has not given me a downtime so far.

      Low-end solition? Yes it is. And it works for us.

    • #3303170

      email server bandwidth

      by chriske911 ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      a small network (>100) I once managed had a Domino mailserver setup wich could not handle the enormous storage required for archiving anymore
      there where a few folks with a mailbox of 1400MB and more, and a certain percentage had about 300MB and more
      all this put together was over 14 GB of data

      the server was an IBM Netfinity 3500 series with a RAID 5 setup using 16,8GB disks
      so the disk where fully loaded, a replacement would have meant downtime and serieus money pockets (this was several years ago when big SCSI disks where extremely expensive)

      also, functionality of the clients was degrading, for example indexing would take 15 minutes and more per request,
      backup was impossible since they did not have tapes big enough, and so on

      I scheduled a full backup over the network during the first weekend before moving on
      then I setup an archive storage wich split the active mail from the mail older then 6 months
      I backed up the archive storage on a tape and on a removable HDD (for quicker restoring ^^)

      then I prepped all clients for offline usage and copied their own archive to their machine (on a local data partition offcourse) and updated the links to their personal archives

      now there was only about 2GB data left on the server,
      backups and restores where much quicker now ;-), compressing, indexing and searching jobs were immediate,
      CPU and RAM usage fell deep down and…
      no need for extra storage or downtime

      most important it didn’t cost anything but an external HDD (wich costed only 200 euro)


    • #3301308

      Wireless initiative

      by kindredx ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      I have been working on a Wireless initiative currently were I work. My responsibility is to keep the company laptops using our proxy, login scripts and so forth to our company, no matter what connection is used. This posed an issue considering the scope of the connections. Primarily our users are connected with a wired network connection, with the new wireless initiative we needed a way to keep our users from becoming unproductive, by not being able to work on the road.

      To mitigate this issue, I created a solution called ?XYZ Product? (Sorry, I am not allowed to give the name out). XYZ Product runs when a user logs into his/her laptop, whether their connection is a wired, wireless, or a 3G Mobile wireless connection.

      XYZ Product can detect the connection being used, detects the IP Address, and Class of the address, alters system settings to allow connection to a Paid or Free Broadband service in Hotels, Caf??s and Partnering businesses, and allows connection to the host.

      XYZ Product handles the network connections until the system is connected to our network via a VPN tunnel which uses two factor authentication, at which point XYZ Product continues for a little while longer so that the user?s login scripts run, and resets any system changes it altered.

      The system is simple, and very effective. It has allowed us to go from a wired laptop, to a wireless laptop without the user having any knowledge of how to make it work; they just know that they can continue working.

      (Roberto Perez)

    • #3301264

      Custom Music on-hold Solution

      by lsanders ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      Since we are a one-person IT shop, I have to cover many things, including the phone system. We used to use CD changers for our on-hold music. However, the darn things kept on dying (we went through three of them; all different brands). So a grabbed an old laptop (Pentium 266, 64 MB RAM, 4 GB HDD) that was too antiquated for our needs and installed Linux on it. Then I ripped our on-hold CD collection to mp3s and plugged the phone system into it. I use XMMS to play them randomly.

      This thing has been running for a year and a half non-stop. It’s also networked so I can dump new mp3s on it whenever the boss gets an itch for new music. This also helps during the holidays. I can telnet to it and switch to Xmas music from anywhere.

      I guess you could also use an iPod or similar player too but this one was “free”.

      • #3301206

        Same situation

        by trockii ·

        In reply to Custom Music on-hold Solution

        I am a one man IT Dept. I too was looking to implement a music on hold solution. I went to Radio Shack and bought a $35 cd/radio player. Plugged that in and now we have music on hold. However it never gets turned off and I fear it’s gonna die and we’ll have dead air, so to speak. I never thought of using a laptop to do the same thing. Thanks for the input.

        • #3301198

          On-Hold Music

          by lsanders ·

          In reply to Same situation

          You’re welcome.

          The laptop worked well for us since we could mount it to the wall and it made for a clean install. You can also use an old tower PC (headless) if you don’t have any old laptops lying around.

          Also, I used Linux mainly because the laptop is not very powerful. Obviously, any OS could be used.

        • #3301169

          I do have that

          by trockii ·

          In reply to On-Hold Music

          I am in the process of doing a complete IT refresh of 20 computers. So I am sure I can find an old dinosaur to help me out. lol

    • #3301092

      Retreiving Email over dial-up.

      by jeff.allen ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      I work for a large multi national and often had to receive emakils over a dial up connection. My biggest hassle was email with attachments embedded in the email body. My email program had to download the whole email, attachements and all, before it would display the text body. Even though I may not require the attachements. I sent out a broadcast email basically saying that if your email is to be read by someone on a dial-up (or other slow) link, please set the text style to unformatted text. That way the attachments are seperate files that the receiver can choose to download if they wish.

      • #3302811

        And they complied?

        by rob ·

        In reply to Retreiving Email over dial-up.

        If they complied THAT alone would be a great accomplishment~!


    • #3303150

      Data recovery: the hard way.

      by jeff.allen ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      A few years ago I was involved in repair of computer hardware. One of my customers was (and still is) a fairly large charity that does very good work with the needy in our Capital city.
      I was called one day to attend a hard drive death. A 5.25″ full height 45Mbyte unit. I arrived and a quick diagnosis proved it was dead: wouldn’t even start. I ordered a spare drive and explained to the customer that I would fit and format the drive and they can then recover their data. “How do we do that?” Hmm. I was beginning to worry. “From your backup tapes”.
      I guess you know the picture by now, no backup tapes, except for the original tapes we created when the system was built many years before.
      The customer was fairly desperate. A lot of records and corespondence would be lost (it was a Unix system).
      I removed the drive and took it back to the workshop. Put it on a test rig and powered it up. Still dead. Having nothing to lose and being a mainframe Engineer from way back, I decided I could try and fix it.
      I opened up the drive, powered it on and gave the platter a spin. It started up OK! The system booted (I had theis drive setup as drive one) and I mounted it OK. I was able to backup the customer’s data to tape, fit a new drive in his system and rebuild it.
      And yes, I donated my time.

    • #3303117

      Lower Software Maintenance by a Magnitude not just a percent!

      by gskinner ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      How many software development organizations are still re-inventing the wheel? The unfortunate answer is generally most organizations still re-invent or duplicate software logic adding to the growing burden of software maintenance.

      With years of software development experience including in-house development, commercial software development, and contracted consulting engagements, this software maintenance issue is always a continuous burden to IT in almost every organization.

      Partial solutions to this dilemma have been developed over the years with “Component-Based-Development” (CBD) being the most successful. However, most organizations and IT Management have not realized the efficiency and cost effectiveness of this approach. With government regulations, competitive pressures, and changes in technology creating almost constant software maintenance requirements, it is understandable why our industry spends large percentages of the IT budget on software maintenance year after year.

      Now, let me relate how to greatly lower this universal burden. Part of the answer is software components. Each of these components are generally specific logic to do sometime correctly the first time and optimized to execute this logic very efficiently by any calling program, in any application that needs to perform this logic. Now, as part of any requirement, you must inform all developers, including contractors where to locate and call this component to keep them from duplicating something already done! This is very effective for “global” functions such as generic data validation on input no matter what the source or application. Yes, this requires mapping requirements to your available components before any development begins, to prevent “re-inventing the wheel”, duplicating already existing functionality with less efficient code, and generally continuing and exacerbating an already huge software maintenance nightmare!

      The other part of the answer is another rather obscure technology called “business rules”. Remember, all businesses large and small in every industry have specific business rules reflecting their business policies and behaviors. Historically, only a few industries such as Banking, Credit Card companies, Government and Insurance have used formal “business rules” and the rule engines to automate often very complex business logic and processes.

      Now, let me digress for a moment to other real-world examples of other industries that have benefited by components and the “business rule” approach.

      SBC Communications, Inc. is the second largest telecom company in the US market. They have been very active in the mergers and acquisitions arena over the last 5 to 10 years. This has created a development team of thousands, located in several locations around the United States and many, many projects to absorb and standardize these new operations. How much IT budget can be saved by all developers, including contractors of which I was one, being prevented from “re-inventing the wheel”? The answer is hundreds of millions!

      An insurance company that processes many insured members for eligibility and claims every day. One particular daily process comes to mind that took large HP servers approximately 6 hrs to process, again every day! This particular process was part of the eligibility application, and consisted of primarily Oracle stored procedures. This 6 hour daily process was reduced to 10 minutes on the same servers with the added benefit of all future maintenance being reduced to simply adding or changing a few “business rules”, in place of months to figure out where to start affecting the required changes in a heavily regulated industry. Again this was a fairly recent contract gig that I was heavily involved in.

      Object oriented technologies provide a separation of software lines of code into at least three tiers (client, business logic, and data). This is again part of the answer. If you have your business logic isolated in the middle tier or “layer” (Microsoft), most software maintenance involves scanning only the middle tier code base. However, there might be thousands of programs in this middle tier!

      Ok, now let’s take it to the next level! Instead of duplicating some business logic in the thousands of programs in the middle-tier, let’s create our business rules and rule-sets in one repository and call a rules engine to interpret our business policies, procedures and behaviors. In our middle-tier we mostly have “component” programs that do specific tasks or functions that look to the rules for the current business parameters, variables, etc., that encapsulate regulations, management and business customers or users needs and desires, competitive pressures, etc., that are the primary sources requiring perpetual software maintenance.

      This approach results in most changes requiring software maintenance being quickly accomplished by simply adding or changing one or more rules. You will normally never change a single program (component) as these are course-grain programs that look to the “rule(s)” for the very specific details to execute all your business logic.

      Program and software maintenance has just been reduced by a magnitude saving precious IT and company budgets, every day, week, month and year into the future.

      After years of working on this approach on a client by client and application by application basis, I decided to develop an affordable, enterprise-class solution that is generic that applies to every size business in any industry. Each client provides their specific business logic which is reduced to XML business rules and interpreted by an infrastructure of optimized Java components including a rule engine.

      Manage Business Change with Agility!

      Questions: Follow the link below, and then I will be more than happy to answer your specific questions!

      • #3047634

        Details of Rule Engine solution

        by lalchandani ·

        In reply to Lower Software Maintenance by a Magnitude not just a percent!

        Would it be possible for you to share some details of your solution. I’d like to know how many rows did you process using your rule engine in the 10 min duration, how you managed the network cost of retrieving and persisting information from the database, and how many rules did you typically have to apply on each row.


        • #3047406

          Some Details of a Rules Engine Solution

          by gskinner ·

          In reply to Details of Rule Engine solution

          Dear Lalchandani,

          I would be happy to share some of the details of this rules-driven solution. The number of rows in this particular group insured by our client was 179,000+. This number represented the total number of employees in the insured group. For simplicity, the insurance company allows the insured client to export their total HR employee database directly into an FTP directory once per week. On a prescribed schedule, our application retrieves this file and looks for the delta(s) or changes in this file that must be reflected in the insurance company?s eligibility tables. Examples of such changes are: new hires, terminations, marital status, dependents, insurance classification, etc. The network time to retrieve this 179,000+ file was accomplished very quickly via a regular T3 line and was exactly the same as the legacy system.

          The number of rules per row was 55, representing data validation affecting insurance coverage eligibility. For instance, if sex is female, marital status is married, and date of birth computes an age of less than 16 years of age, then state law dictates the couple is not legally married and spousal coverage may not be granted.

          The errors were automatically reported back to the employer (client) via an e-mail to be corrected online through the insurance company?s system, or simply changed in the employers? HR system and processed via next weeks? wholesale export to the FTP directory.

          There were many insured employers and they used various HR systems with different record formats. Therefore, our first step in this process was to retrieve and parse the input file into a common XML file format. All processing of the eligibility rules was then accomplished in the next and final pass of this 179,000+ record file resulting in the errors reported back to the client via e-mail, insurance eligibility tables updated, audit change report produced, new insurance cards printed for new hires and changes in insurance classification or coverage, insurance termination notices mailed to terminated employees, etc.

          There are two very important points to remember concerning the conversion of this legacy insurance application to a rules-driven application. The legacy application consisted of primarily PL/SQL stored procedures performing the business logic or eligibility rules on this 179,000+ employee group. With 55 different business rules and validity checks to perform, the legacy system had to pass the data from temporary table to temporary table multiple times to accomplish all business logic and the legacy system had two stops in the processing that required manual intervention and a re-start of the appropriate processes. The rules-driven solution automated the two stops with multiple scenario rule sets, and completed all processing in one pass of the data; therefore greatly reducing network and database activity.

          It should be noted that we are only looking for and persisting one week?s changes in the insurance company?s eligibility tables. New hires represent an insert in the tables, while the rest of the week?s changes represent updates.

          More importantly, the legacy stored procedures over time had become spaghetti code and were very difficult to maintain in a heavily regulated insurance industry. Future maintenance in the rules-driven solution are easily discovered, performed, tested, and deployed; therefore bringing business agility and significantly lower software maintenance costs.

          This solution is a cross-industry solution, as the Java Components have no industry or client specifics embedded. The XML Business Rules provide the industry and client specifics; including industry domain language, specific business policies and behavior, etc.

          This results in maximum component reuse across multiple applications within a single industry, and across all industries. There are specific algorithm components unique to a given industry, however the majority of components are completely “generic” and can be applied across the entire business logic tier. Legacy and custom applications can easily call the rules engine, increasing performance, scalability and business agility.

          Follow the link above and perform the demo all the way through, including pressing the rule detail button and scrolling down the actual XML rules.

          Fill out the “contact us” page, and receive much more information, including what Forrester Research and Gartner have to say about this revolutionary approach!

          Thank you for your interest!

    • #3302872

      IT Genius

      by tomsal ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      Examples of IT Genius (aka “look at the friggin people I work with”)

      1. I was the IS guy working one day, took my lunch offsite near a local burger place not 10 minutes from work, as usually I had the leash on me (aka corporate on-call cell phone). No one called me, but when I got back from lunch saw three executives (keep in in mind for the punchline — we are collectively talking nearly $1 million in annual salary right here) huddled all over the mondo huge color laser printer, looking under it, behind it, hemming and howling about it.

      “What’s wrong guys?”…”this piece of #hit isn’t working for over a half hour now and we have a corporate meeting in 20 minutes…” “oh, why didn’t anyone call me?” — “We didn’t think it was a big matter.” With that I bent down and plugged in the machine, plugged in the network cable from the TELEPHONE jack to the NETWORK jack then hit the reset button.

      “Ok you should be fine.”

      (And that’s why they get paid the big bucks?)

      2. Switched the desktops from Windows 98 to Windows XP….now my users can more stability download virus infected files, but hey it looks “more pretty” than the old Windows and this makes the big wigs happy….the genius part? Oh I kinda “slid” in memory upgrades for all IS associate computers and for two floor managers that I promised months ago after constantly getting budgets denied in my face. Now the managers are thinking IS is great because their machines were simply upgraded from 128 to 256 or 512.

      3. Configured the CISCO switches, documented all our ports and patch panels, then cross referenced this information with the firewall logs — the company had some trouble with an employee (a very expensive high paid one at that) and our relentless tracking and log taking of his where abouts on the Internet through company resources, our inventory tracking of corporate property…eventually lead to running him out (IS worked with HR and the OPs head on this one) saved the company huge HUGE financially on his big salary and expense account, plus removed the on-going threat of someone bringing harrassment charges against the company or worse.

      • #3302840

        Similar thing

        by trockii ·

        In reply to IT Genius

        The sales manger came to me because he needed a new toner cartridge for this printer. Not thinking I just handed him the needed cartridge and asked him to bring back the old one to recycle. The next day he comes to me and says I broke that new toner cartridge so I had to use the old one more. I asked how did you do that? and he said he put the new cartridge in and tried to print. It wouldn’t print so he took the cartridge out and found a little plastic piece with a silver ribbon attached leading to the inside. He wanted me to take it back and get a refund. I went to the printer and got the new cartridge The manager didn’t know that was the toner protector and it was supposed to be yanked out before use. I guess we take for granted what we know as common sense.

    • #3303862

      Make use of what you already have

      by javanek ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      I work for a government agency and we recently bought a number of new workstations to replace some of the antiquated boxes on the network. When we received the machines we found that they came with SATA drives. In order to set up 200+ workstations we generally use a disk cloning machine. Unfortunately it does not with the new drives, only IDE.

      The IT management was initially looking into buying an updated cloner with SATA support (approx $1700). Our only other options was to build all of the machines by hand. Instead I (the new guy fresh out of school) suggested we set up a RIS server. We had done this as a project in one of my classes.

      I used an older server with a copy of W2k server. Within about a week we had the system up and running. We now can crank out about 30 machines a week (we still have to manually put on the users and configure email and the likes.) This is much better than the six we could do manually installing or the tweleve the were able to do with cloning last time. Total investment: $0. Just making use of what is built into the OS.

    • #3328211

      Data recovery: the hardest way

      by robb.dawson ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      About a month ago I got a call that one of our PC’s wouldn’t boot. Once I looked at the system I determined the hard drive was bad – it couldn’t spin up properly. Of course, the data hadn’t been backed up in over a year. So, I took it apart and tried to help it get going but it still wouldn’t go.
      Then I went through my pile of old hard drives and found a match. I took the hard drive platters out and transplanted them into the the spare drive. After a couple attempts, the hard drive was detected and the data was recovered. A years worth of program changes were saved. 🙂

    • #3066542

      Reply To: Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      by the admiral ·

      In reply to Wanted: Examples of unrecognized IT genius!

      An unrecognized genius in my mind is someone who can see a train on the tracks and can take the time to ensure that the quality of the product goes beyond just the requirements.

      We often times see techies just doing what the customer or the PM wants, rather than doing it, and then adding an added feature like sorting the information. We had that problem with a SAP application where alphabetizing was not even considered.

      Adding common sense items like those can make a client suprisingly give you praise if it can be implemented with uncommenting code. With object oriented IT systems, it is a no brainer to add the code in all of the systems being developed.

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