The Office: Eenie, Meanie, Mienie, Moe! J+GoG.

My OfficeI am currently gainfully employed as an IT Manager. The only issue I have with this is that I do not really manage anything, I have no underlings. However, I am responsible for providing solutions to problems, finding efficient ways of performing similar tasks that improve overall business process, and performing minor miracles with a zero budget. When company take overs happen, I am then left with the task of performing major miracles without any decent information. Presented with this, I toss everything and instead focus on something more interesting: code.

A good friend of mine gave me some information on a new languages, Groovy on Grails, which I spoke about briefly last week. This week I have been looking through some other items, and stumbled onto a podcast by an associate of mine, Marie Wessels, who works for 3Fifteen. She has a podcast on about Sharepoint. Which got me thinking about Sharepoint, Active Directory and SQL servers again. I’m spread a little thin I think. Regardless, it made me think of something Bunny said to me: “Why are you in the IT industry if it irratates your so much?” Why indeed?

Because it is still something that makes me feel all gooey inside. I am probably one of very few people who thinks it’s awesome when I read a statement about hosting sharepoint server farms using SQL as the structure and active directory to perform authentication. I think: “Coooooool!” It’s the Geek in me. I know it. I’m not ashamed of it either! I like complexity and simplicity in structured solutions. I like infrastructure and databases and systems and computer hardware. It rocks! I just wish I had a money machine and a time machine so that I could properly play with my hobby.

But this does return down to the topic of todays post; which is what do I spend my time focussing on. Obviously I cannot know everything, and I have been able to get by knowing something about just about everything, but perhaps it is time I pick and choose which items to follow religiously and which I need to put into a small basket somewhere near the back of my mind. Mookity wants me to use Java. I am a VB fan boy (until .Net). I want to program in C++, but it looks awfully boring. C# sounds kinky, but isn’t, and PHP is something that looks yummy but, well, isn’t. The simplicity of VB over the complexcity of C strucutre. At least that is where I was floundering until I considered a simple fact: Java, PHP, C++, C, C# to a degree, JavaScript, and a lot of other languages all share similar (very similar) structure. They look mostly the same and follow the same syntax structure. they’re not exactly the same (except for Java and Groovy which you can port from Java to Groovy just by renaming the Java file), but they do offer a certain degree of similarity.

Learning Java, and Groovy with Grails, gives me the oppertunity of being able to catch up on C and PHP relatively quickly as they are basically the same, just with different naunces. So surely it is the logical decision to learn it? Yet how will this fit into the environment and infrastructure of companies that run mostly Windows based architecture? Having a Groovy based Intranet is grand and all, but how does it fit into a Sharepoint Server Farm with SQL 2008 Servers and a Windows Active Directory? Would it be pointless of me to study this language if only to find that it doesn’t fit into my infrastructure?

Well, as it turns out, Java is an old hand with LDAP. Great. I had a look at two articles, here and here, but I must admit that they didn’t make much sense to me. That doesn’t matter however. I haven’t even started learning the Java language yet, which means that over time they will begin to make sense. Bonus for me. The real question for me, however, is: does Groovy have any tools for LDAP support and authentication? Enter our friend Google. A quick search popped up a couple of articles, such as this one, by Michael Szklanowski, and this one by Phil. The lasty article pointed out something a bit odd, however; how does this integrate with Grails? Well, there is a Grails plugin which is documented here on Spring. So, there is no question that Groovy on Grails can access LDAP and Active Directory. Awesome.

The same is pretty much true for accessing the SQL server infrastructure. You can find more information about it here.

Therefore my arguments against using Java, Groovy and Grails have weakened to such an extent that I am having a small problem trying to justify the putting off of it. Then Mookity sends me an email with a challenge in it:


create a product catalog
must include images
number item in stock
basic description

no ordering function just yet

Awesome. So, somewhere between all the programming projects I have made for myself I now need to make this as well. But i recognise that as an excuse. Mookity has the advantage of being an actual programmer for his daily wage and having worked with Java for a long time. So I am at a disadvantage, which means that for me to do this, I have to do it better than he might do it, and perhaps faster. How that will happen is beyond me at this point. The time line given is two weeks from Wednesday last. So I’d better get my arse into gear.

Why the sudden itnerest in Groovy, Grails and Java? The company that I have been working for, for the last couple of years does not have a programmer or a proper IT infrastructure. They outsourced the majority of their work to other companies. Because of that they were not able to identify places where solid infrastructure is required, and were unaware of where a programmer can help them. As issues were identified solutions were delivered. The problem comes in that te vast majority of these solutions are written in ancient VBScript ASP 3.0 with only a handful in VB.NET. Some of the applications date back to VB 6.0! There are a smattering of PHP web pages, but all in all, some of this, and some of that.

The company has been bought out, and the larger company will probably want things cleaned up a bit. More so, I want things cleaned up. Which means a re-write of a lot of code. Migrate it to JAVA using Groovy on Grails, keep the Windows infrastructure, and tweak the stuff that is using PHP. Do away with the .Net because it sucks, and see where it takes me. Most of it is logisitcs process and warehouse management, which is not where I saw myself going when I started with the whole IT thing a decade or so ago. But that is where I am now. So take it, and run.


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