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Programming Highs and Tire Lows

July 15, 2014

Last week we experienced an interesting mix of high and low points.

The big high for us was teaching a class of Java programmers about the joys of RPG. We also spent a little time on RDi, but since they already used Rational Application Developer for their Java work that was mostly just to introduce them to the IBM i specific features.

Three things helped make this an enjoyable class to teach:

  1. The students were all young--and we don't mean young in our terms (i.e., anyone less than 50) we mean young young.
  2. They were all enthusiastic and asked the right questions, which clearly showed that they were not only understanding the language but also getting a feel for its power and simplicity. We'll be going back to complete their training later this year once the students have had a chance to absorb the initial lessons and we're looking forward to it.
  3. This was our first opportunity to teach the new all-free-form RPG flavor of the language. While it was a lot more work to retrofit our teaching materials than we had anticipated (never thought about how many of the examples have F, D and P specs in them!), what a difference it makes when teaching RPG to Java (or C/C++/C# or PHP, etc) developers. Those pesky columns--even when just for data declarations--always caused so much consternation in past classes. This time, the only hitch was the occasional need to remind them that the code must start on or after column 8 and end at column 80.

This class has reaffirmed our belief that all too often, trying to replace your retiring RPG programmers with experienced RPGers is a waste of time. Not that there aren't good RPGers out there looking for work, but most are too expensive for companies are looking for junior to intermediate level staff. Either that or their "30 years of experience" is actually three years repeated 10 times over because they are so reluctant to learn new skills. Case in point--and one of the lows of the week--we had an email concerning a shop where the staff (we won't dignify them by using the terms "programmers", "developers" or "RPGers") are busily stripping out things like embedded SQL and prototyped program calls whenever they have to maintain a modern program because they can't be bothered to learn this "new-fangled stuff." They probably rue the passing of the tabulator and the punched card too. Sad, so sad. No wonder the shop is moving away from the IBM i.

The other high/low mixture of the week concerned our rental car. Very soon after we set off from the airport a low tire pressure warning appeared. We checked but the tire appeared to be fine. Given that rental car companies often do a lousy job of what would be the PDI (pre-delivery inspection) at your local car dealer we have encountered such false warnings many times before. We kept checking but despite the warning light the tire appeared fine. Until it wasn't. Suddenly it lost pressure so we took it to the local tire store to see if they could fix it. Nope. It had a side wall leak, which couldn't be plugged. No problem, they inflated the tire again and we called the rental car company. "Yes sir - we will happily exchange your car. Just drive to your nearest location and they will help you." Fine except only corporate locations would do and the nearest was a 90+ minute round trip away and it was already getting late in the day. It was a slow leak so hopefully it would last until the next evening when we could drive down and swap the car.

The next morning arrived sunny, hot and humid with the tire completely flat. Changing a tire while in work clothes and 95 degree weather had not been high on Jon's wish list for the day but. ...

Luckily that was the end of the lows. We drove the car back to the rental company and, to cut a long story short, the only replacement vehicle they had available was a Mercedes 350. Not a bad swap for a Chevy Impala! Only problem is that Jon is enjoying driving it so much that he wants to keep it. Sadly that is not on the cards but at least we get to use it for a few more days.


Posted July 15, 2014| Permalink

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